The Council received a presentation from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the Draft 2021 Observer Program Annual Report and provided recommendations for the development of the 2023 Annual Deployment Plan (ADP). The Annual Report provides a scientific evaluation of the deployment of observers in 2021 to evaluate if deployment expectations were met that year. The report also includes information describing the program, enforcement trends, outreach efforts, and agency recommendations for the 2023 Draft ADP. This year’s report is abbreviated in response to previous Council direction due to the complications in deployment plans because of COVID-19, and the Council has also recognized that an abbreviated report conserves staff time for work on the Partial Observer Coverage Cost Efficiencies Integrated Analysis (Cost Efficiencies Analysis) for the Draft 2024 Annual Deployment Plan.
The Council also received a report from the Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (PCFMAC) on ongoing analytical work for cost efficiencies in the partial coverage observer program, and a report from the Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (FMAC) on the Annual Report and the Trawl Electronic Monitoring (EM) Analysis, as well as several other topics.
The Council appreciates the 2021 Observer Program Annual Report and recommends NMFS update the total 2021 fixed gear EM seadays reviewed by PSMFC and costs for the final report. The Council also supported NMFS’ recommendations for the 2023 Draft ADP (from Section 5.1 of the Annual Report):
- Maintaining the three gear-based deployment strata (hook-and-line, pot, and trawl) and maintaining the allocation strategy from the 2022 ADP in 2023.
- Adding fixed gear EM vessels (30% coverage) in the EM pool in 2023 (up to 200 total vessels) provided they opt-in prior to November 1, 2022, additional funding for EM equipment is secured, and they meet the criteria in the ADP.
- Continuation of the pelagic trawl EM project with 100% at-sea monitoring in addition to shoreside observer coverage
The Council continues to strongly support NMFS’ work on the comprehensive partial coverage cost efficiencies analysis to support cost savings and higher coverage rates under a schedule which allows:
- Implementation in the 2024 ADP
- Results to inform the next federal observer contract
- The PCFMAC to convene to review the draft sampling elements (likely early fall)
- The PCFMAC to convene prior to the analytical team incorporating elements into a sampling design (likely early 2023)
Additionally, the Council does not support evaluation of port-based deployment that requires vessels to travel to select ports to pick up an observer in the cost efficiencies analysis.
Lastly, the Council expressed its support for the four EM-focused NFWF proposals highlighted in the Council’s B reports.
Staff contact is Sara Cleaver.