The Council received a presentation from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the 2020 Observer Annual Report and provided recommendations for the development of the 2022 Draft Annual Deployment Plan (ADP). The Annual Report provides a scientific evaluation of the deployment of observers in 2020 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 developing the 2022 Draft ADP. The Council also received a report from the Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (PCFMAC) and Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (FMAC) on recommendations for the upcoming 2022 Draft ADP and ongoing analytical work for cost efficiencies in the partial coverage observer program.
The Council commends NMFS on the Annual Report, and all the hard work from observers, observer and electronic monitoring providers, fishermen, and staff that made observer coverage possible during a challenging year. The Council supports NMFS’ recommendations for the 2022 Draft ADP listed in section 6.1 of the Annual Report.
- Maintaining the three gear-based deployment strata (pot, hook-and-line, and trawl)
- Evaluating trip and port-based deployment approaches. Port-based deployment should only evaluate the existing 14 key ports from which observers deployed in 2020 and 2021 and reflect updated COVID-19 rules.
- Maintaining the 15% baseline hurdle for each gear type and optimize place all optimized days above the baseline coverage level on trawl gear. Currently, optimization is based on discards, Chinook salmon PSC, and halibut PSC. The Council supports evaluation of the FMAC suggestion to ensure optimization days if funding alone is not sufficient, as practicable.
- The Council supports expanding the fixed gear EM pool as funding allows. A vessel’s ability to share EM systems in select ports should be considered as an additional criterion to prioritize new candidate EM vessels for the EM pool.
The Council further supports the May 2021 FMAC recommendations including completion of the comprehensive partial coverage cost efficiencies analysis in 2022 for implementation in the 2024 ADP and in time to inform and affect the next Federal observer contract which is set to expire in August 2024. The Council priorities for cost efficiency in partial coverage remain: 1) completing a regulated program for use of EM for pelagic trawl in the GOA and BSAI; 2) integration of electronic monitoring into the overall monitoring of fixed gear; and 3) evaluation of different criteria to define the ‘zero selection’ pool for fixed gear. The Council recommends ongoing communication with the Council’s PCFMAC during this process. Staff contact is Anna Henry.