Recent US federal budget cuts and looming industry cost-sharing mechanisms have developed a need to explore more cost-effective and sustainable alternatives to at-sea monitoring in New England's groundfish fishery. Electronic monitoring (EM) has gained both national and international attention, and it has proven to be a successful alternative in areas such as British Columbia's groundfish fishery.
This interest has echoed across New England through recent developments like the Northeast Fisheries Science Center's EM Pilot Project and the New England Fishery Management Council's EM Working Group, and it will be the topic of discussion at upcoming workshops. In addition to these efforts, further research is needed to operationalize catch-handling protocols for effective data analysis, along with affordable methods to successfully implement EM in New England's groundfish fishery.
This summer, GMRI, along with The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Community Sector, and Ecotrust Canada, launched a two-year EM project that will develop and test an affordable, open-source EM system on seven active groundfish vessels across both gillnet and trawl gear types.
In year one of the project (fishing year 2013), EM data is being compared to vessel trip report data. EM systems are being tested on two vessels in the Maine Coast Community Sector with hopes to reach out to additional sectors and explore other implementation options, such as various levels of catch retention, in fishing year 2014.
During the first year of the project, discard weights for 14 regulated groundfish species are being estimated on a haul-by-haul basis, and two different methodologies are being tested, both a length-weight and a volume-weight relationship. The data collected will meet federal technical specifications and will be compared to data collected by the fishermen and at-sea monitors. This work aims to validate self-reported data, build on existing federal initiatives, and introduce an additional EM provider to increase capacity and further its operationalization in preparation for potential regulatory approval in fishing year 2015.
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