The Council reviewed the Observer Program Draft 2022 Annual Deployment Plan (ADP) and received a report from the Partial Coverage Fishery Monitoring Advisory Committee (PCFMAC). The Council supported NMFS’ recommendations for deploying observers and electronic monitoring (EM) on vessels in the partial coverage groundfish and halibut fisheries in 2022. Specifically, the Council supported NMFS’ recommendations for the coverage allocation scheme of an adjusted 15% plus optimization based on discarded groundfish and halibut PSC and Chinook PSC, as described in the Draft 2022 ADP. This approach provides a 95% confidence interval that baseline coverage levels will be met for all strata. Observer coverage rates resulting from this approach and the final budget will be available in the final 2022 ADP in December.
The Council supports maintaining this allocation strategy through 2023, with the caveat that additional fixed gear vessels (up to 200 total vessels) may be added to the EM pool in 2023 provided that: they opt-in prior to November 1, 2022, additional funding for EM equipment is secured, and vessels meet the criteria in the ADP. Maintaining this strategy through 2023 would make staff resources available to work on the comprehensive partial coverage cost efficiencies analysis that the Council prioritized.
The Council strongly supports NMFS’ continued work on the comprehensive partial coverage cost efficiencies analysis, and supports the PCFMAC recommendations with respect to that work. The Council requests that the schedule for that analysis ensure the results are available to inform bidding for the next observer contract, in order that the new contract is able to contain cost efficiency measures and supports additional efforts to manage costs. Under staff tasking, the Council affirmed that the PCFMAC should meet in February 2022 to discuss the agency’s cost efficiency analysis in advance of the annual FMAC meeting in May. The Council requested that to the extent possible, the agency report specifically identify the benefits of using a Federal contractor for partial coverage observer days, and what issues would need to be addressed should the Council express interest in an alternative model.
Staff contact is Sara Cleaver.