At their April meeting, the Council reviewed an analysis to modify the partial coverage observer fee. The Council released the analysis for public review, after revisions and additions from the Council and its advisory bodies, including the SSC, AP, and the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee, are addressed by staff, to the extent practicable.
The Council adopted a revised set of alternatives for analysis. The revised alternatives are intended to provide clarity and focus, including a reasonable range of options for the analysts to address. New options under the revised Alternative 3 allow the Council to select one fee percentage that would apply to all fixed gear fisheries combined, and a different, higher fee percentage for trawl fisheries. The rationale for this is the relative (higher) amount contributed in fees by fixed gear, as well as the PSC-limited nature and higher volume of trawl harvests.
During discussion about the fee analysis, costs of the Observer Program were highlighted as a key concern both by the public and by the Council. The Council noted that releasing the fee analysis for public review is not meant to suggest that the agency and the Council are not pursuing ways to reduce costs of the Observer Program. Rather, the fee analysis adds value in addition to the specific scope of assessing the partial coverage fee percentage, by allowing the Council to review and assess overall goals of the Observer Program.
It was noted that the Council has typically prioritized increased coverage and representative and random sampling in the Observer Program, and has not always been cost conscious in how sampling needs are achieved. This fee analysis provides an opportunity for the Council to discuss cost savings while working to maintain and enhance the Observer Program through consideration of whether and by how much to increase the observer fee.
Council members noted the importance of ongoing constructive communication and collaborative work among industry, agency, and the Council regarding all Observer Program work.
Staff contact is Elizabeth Figus