The Council reviewed the Observer Program Draft 2019 Annual Deployment Plan (ADP), received a report from its Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (FMAC, formerly named the Observer Advisory Committee), and provided recommendations to NMFS. The Council supported NMFS’ recommendations for the deployment strata (to use the same strata as in 2018) and a coverage allocation scheme of 15% plus optimized allocation based on discarded groundfish, halibut PSC, and Chinook PSC, as described in the Draft 2019 ADP. Final selection rates for the deployment strata will be determined in the Final ADP, which will be reported to the Council in December. The Draft ADP includes an EM selection pool for fixed gear vessels, and the Council recommended that if additional funds become available, NMFS should expand the EM trip selection pool to up to 165 vessels, using the order of priority for candidate vessels as presented in the Draft 2019 ADP. The Council requested NMFS include Sitka on the list of ‘primary ports’ for EM deployment in 2019.
The Council also received a report from the Trawl EM Committee, and requested NMFS prioritize staff time to engage with the Committee to develop EM for compliance monitoring and for salmon accounting on pelagic trawl catcher vessels fishing in the BSAI and the GOA as well as vessels delivering to tender vessels.
The Council requested NMFS provide additional information about the cost structure under the observer contract and how costs may be expected to fluctuate at different funding levels. The Council recommended the FMAC partial coverage subgroup develop additional recommendations for how to potentially lower costs and increase observer coverage rates in the partial coverage category while maintaining: data sufficient for managing the fisheries; randomized deployment; and cost equity considerations among participants. The subgroup should also continue to provide input on differential deployment base levels by gear type. In the meantime, the Council decided to compose a letter to NMFS headquarters to request additional Federal funding to supplement observer deployment in the partial coverage category.
The Council requested NMFS provide updates to the FMAC in May 2019 regarding an evaluation of how the observer fee will be split between fixed gear EM and human observers for the draft 2020 ADP; and, an evaluation of Observer Program performance metrics in the 2018 Annual Report. Finally, the Council requested staff to write a letter to the National Observer Program in support of regional-specific solutions to observer safety issues. Staff contact for observer issues is Elizabeth Figus.