Participation in electronic monitoring would be voluntary

A proposed rule filed with the Federal Register on March 22 would integrate electronic monitoring into the North Pacific Observer Program, using cameras and associated sensors to record and monitor activities.

Officials with the Alaska Region of NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center said that publication of the proposed rule opens a 60-day public comment period, and will include three public hearings on the proposal.

They will be held on April 6 at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel, in conjunction with the spring meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, April 18 at the International Pacific Halibut Commission office in Seattle, and April 19, at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon.

When NOAA Fisheries restructured the North Pacific Observer Program in 2013, it was the first time fisheries observers were placed on small boats between 40 feet and 60 feet, and boats harvesting halibut in Alaska.

Under NOAA’s proposed rule, electronic monitoring technology would only be available to owners and operators in the “partial coverage category” of the observer program, in which the agency places observers on randomly selected vessels not in the full coverage category.

Some small boat owners said they did not have room on the boat or their life rafts for the observer, and advocated for the option to use an electronic monitoring system instead of carrying an observer.


Boat owners worked with NOAA Fisheries and the NPFMC to develop the EM technology that works best in Alaska for collecting fishery data. The EM systems developed can effectively identify almost all species or species groupings required for management, NOAA officials said. EM would be used to collect catch and bycatch data from vessels while fishing.

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