New England groundfish fishermen and managers are still adapting to the new sector system. They are now focusing their attention on at-sea-monitoring and its potential cost to fishermen once federal funds are reduced or no longer made available in 2013.
To address this and other concerns, the New England Fishery Management Council (Council) is planning to reconfigure the current monitoring program, as an element of the upcoming sector framework adjustment. The Northeast Fishery Science Center is conducting a pilot study to explore the feasibility of electronic monitoring (EM) as a less costly alternative to human monitors. In an effort to understand all potential options, NMFS and industry stakeholders are looking to other regions for guidance and lessons learned.
Recently, the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Rationalization Program completed its first year of operations under catch share management. To review the fleet's performance during its first year the industry group, West Coast Trawlers' Network, along with other organizations, held the Second Pacific Groundfish Quota Monitoring Workshop in Santa Rosa, California. At the workshop (known as Santa Rosa II), panelists discussed monitoring, catch accounting, and methods for incorporating electronic technologies as ways to move towards a more cost-effective system. Videos from these panels are available online at www.westcoasttrawlers.net/sessions/recent
While there are many differences between the West Coast and East Coast groundfish fisheries, the sessions at Santa Rosa II demonstrate that there are many common monitoring themes and issues along both coasts. In 2008, prior to implementation of the West Coast groundfish IFQ program in 2011, NMFS and The Nature Conservancy tested the feasibility of meeting catch- accounting needs through EM for fixed gear vessels. Building on lessons learned from this project, and the Shoreside Hake Electronic Monitoring pilot project, NMFS, along with industry partners, NGOs, and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, are starting a new electronic monitoring study for three types of vessels in the Pacific groundfish trawl fishery. The project's objectives are twofold: 1) an analysis of the costs and benefits of an audit verses a census approach to EM data analysis, and 2) testing if EM can be used to monitor 100% catch retention, which includes comparing EM estimates of unauthorized discarded catch to observer estimates.
Efforts on both coasts underscore the critical importance of cost-effective monitoring to the viability of individual fishing businesses. GMRI is currently convening a Monitoring Working Group in an effort to encourage the industry's participation in the Council's reworking of the monitoring program. The group is developing multiple monitoring options for sectors, including EM, that will meet the Council's goals and objectives in both a cost-effective and efficient manner.
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