EM PROGRAM AT A GLANCE
- Fishery: New England Groundfish
- Geographic Scope: Waters off (list states)
- EM Program Purpose: Discard compliance
- Implementation year: 2016
- Number of Participating Vessels: 20
- Questions and Challenges:
- Participation: The overall state of the groundfish fishery impacts the number of vessels interested in participating in the EM program
- Cost: How will the system be paid for, long-term?
- Confidentiality and record-keeping archiving: Fishermen have questions about confidentiality, ownership, and how long to retain video data
New England groundfish fishermen have been interested in using EM for a number of years. Their priority is to create a cost-efficient system that provides timely, accurate catch and discard monitoring. Currently operating under a program that puts human observers on approximately 20% of groundfish trips, they are interested in exploring a less obtrusive, less expensive option. Following an announcement from the National Fisheries Management Service that it would no longer cover the $725/day cost for human observers, interest in an EM program grew more acute.
In this fishery catches and discards must be documented and counted against a yearly weight allocation for various groundfish species and stocks (annual catch limits and annual catch entitlements, or ACLs and ACEs). A number of EM pilot projects were carried out, which concluded that EM must be tailored to specific monitoring needs and the operations of each vessel.
Impetus to establish this EM program has come primarily from the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance and the Maine Coastal Community Sector. Fishermen in these sectors contacted the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Office (GARFO) to push EM as a viable alternative to at-sea monitors. They then worked with The Nature Conservancy, NMFS, and EM service providers to explore a variety of issues related to implementation of EM. Discussions began slowly as relationships were established and concerns shared among all parties. These discussions have been productive but time-consuming, so the target for EM implementation is now May 2016.
Initially fishermen felt they would include EM as part of their sector plans, but a decision was reached to use the Experimental Fishery Permit (EFP) process for the first year of EM implementation. This program will have EM systems on participating vessels that will be turned on when the vessel is chosen for a monitored trip (about 20% of all trips). During these trips the EM system will be running 100% of the time, and video data will be used to verify compliance with discard requirements. Catch accounting by species and weight will come from dealer reports.
About 20 boats plan to participate in the EFP EM program in 2016 and more vessels will certainly join if funding can be found to cover camera installations. Twenty vessels will be enough to determine what works and what needs improvement in this critical first year. Fishermen and managers alike know that they’ll need to make changes “on the fly” to get the monitoring data required in this fishery and to make EM work operationally for all participating vessels.