The Council approved an increase to the observer fee that supports the deployment of observers and electronic monitoring (EM) systems in the commercial groundfish and Pacific halibut fisheries under partial coverage monitoring throughout the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea Aleutian Islands. The Council adopted a fee increase from the current 1.25% to 1.65%. Under the fastest implementation scenario, the change would go into effect in 2021, and the revenue would be available to affect coverage rates in mid-2022.
The Council heard extensive public testimony about controlling costs in the partial coverage observer program, and before taking action on the fee increase, passed a motion to set cost efficiency as its highest priority for work on the partial coverage observer program. The Council prioritized several immediate efforts to consider how to potentially lower costs and yet increase coverage rates for monitoring, by developing the pelagic trawl EM program, integrating EM and observer data for fixed gear, and optimizing the size and composition of fixed gear observed and EM fleets (including moving some vessels in remote ports, harvesting small amounts of fish, to zero-coverage).
Ultimately, the Council decided that because observer program data, scientifically collected, is foundational to the Council’s management program, both additional revenue and mechanisms to reduce costs would be required to address projected revenue shortfalls identified in the analysis. The Council selected an amount that would improve the stability of the partial coverage observer program, increase the fee in an equitable way across sectors, and along with cost containment measures that have been initiated, ensure the Council’s monitoring objectives can continue to be met.
Staff contact is Diana Evans.