The Council reviewed a discussion paper that considered options for increasing partial coverage selection rates. The Council opted to initiate an analysis to consider increasing the observer fee, with the first steps of the analytical process to follow the Observer Advisory Committee recommendations to develop observer coverage reference points.
The paper was prepared by a subgroup of the OAC and endorsed by the OAC, and evaluated whether there are short-term options that can be addressed through changes to the Annual Deployment Plan or the Catch Accounting System, and longer-term solutions that may involve regulatory change. One of the short-term options, to secure Federal funding, has been achieved this year, which will increase selection rates for the next two years (2018-2019). Chris Oliver, NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator, noted in his address to the Council, however, that this additional Federal funding should be considered as a one-time reallocation, and is not a long-term solution for funding at-sea observer coverage. As such, the Council initiated an analysis to increase the fee, linked with the OAC’s recommendation on next steps which call for refining the reference points by which to judge what level of sampling is sufficient, and optimization work that can be done through the Annual Deployment Plan, namely to revise the criteria for the zero-selection pool, and optimize the balance of vessels using Electronic Monitoring versus those in the human observer pools. While recognizing that the immediate next steps require agency staff work, the Council requested that the OAC subgroup continue to engage and interact with staff on developing these steps. Staff contact is Diana Evans.