The Council received an update on staff progress with resolving challenges related to observer coverage on vessels delivering to tenders, and reaffirmed current tasking priorities. The Council recognizes the longstanding use and importance of tenders in Alaska fisheries, especially in the western Gulf of Alaska, where the location of pollock and Pacific cod fishing grounds are further from port, and the fleet is largely comprised of smaller trawl vessels (57 to 60 ft LOA).
Challenges with deploying observers on vessels delivering to tenders have led to different sampling protocols for monitoring salmon bycatch for those vessels and the potential for biased data resulting from observed tender trips. The Council has initiated multiple actions to resolve these challenges. Since 2017, the Council and NMFS have established separate strata for random deployment of observers on vessels delivering to tenders, to ensure that a minimum amount of observer coverage is obtained. In October 2017, the Council also initiated an analysis to change the definition of a tender trip, including an evaluation of deploying observers directly from tender vessels. In February 2018, the Council formed a trawl catcher vessel Electronic Monitoring (EM) Committee to develop EM including for use on vessels delivering to tenders. The trawl EM Committee has made swift progress developing a cooperative research plan to develop an EM program for compliance purposes on pelagic pollock trawl catcher vessels and tenders both delivering to shoreside processors with a defined retention requirement.
In 2017, the Council approved the recommendation from the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (formerly the OAC) to prioritize the observer fee analysis ahead of the tender analysis with respect to staff tasking. After the fee analysis is completed (anticipated during the Spring of 2019), more staff capacity may become available to continue progress on an analysis relating to the definition of a tender trip. After revisiting this issue at the December 2018 meeting, the Council decided that no change was needed to existing prioritization. Staff contact for observer issues is Elizabeth Figus.