In May 2013, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released a national policy directive that encourages the consideration of electronic technologies as part of a suite of fishery dependent data collection methods. The directive covers both electronic vessel trip reporting (eVTR) and electronic monitoring (EM), an option for fishery dependent data collection that could supplement at-sea observers through the use of onboard cameras and self-reporting of catch.
Underpinning the policy action is the recognition that fishery-dependent data can significantly enhance our collective understanding of the state of marine ecosystems, improve fishery stock assessments, and shed light on the implications of climate change for our nation's fisheries. Nowhere is this more true than in the Gulf of Maine, where water temperatures continue to trend warmer, and stock assessments -- driven largely by state and federal surveys -- signal declines of many key stocks including cod, yellowtail flounder, and witch flounder.
In New England, EM programs have been underway for some time through initiatives like NMFS Northeast Cooperative Research Program's Study Fleet and an Electronic Monitoring System pilot study led by the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center and Fisheries Sampling Branch in conjunction with Archipelago Marine Research Ltd. Under sector management, industry organizations, together with individual sectors and software developers, have built at-sea electronic data collection software to meet reporting requirements. With these systems in place, there is potential to improve the timeliness and accuracy of fishery dependent data, as well as fishery stock assessments.
To learn more about NMFS policies on electronic monitoring and reporting, click here.