Expanding information needs in commercial fisheries has led to the introduction of EM as a rapidly growing alternative to observer programs. EM is still in its infancy and while EM and observers seek to achieve similar information outputs they are fundamentally different programs in terms of design, operational needs and cost. A successfully implemented operational EM program is the result of optimizing data needs (quantity, quality, and timeliness) with the fishery characteristics, the technology, the operational requirements to support the deployment of EM and available funds.
A multitude of studies has shown that many of the standard fishery information needs can be successfully achieved using EM. Future technology investments hold promise for improving information quality, gathering new types of information, achieving greater operational efficiencies and reducing program costs. We posit that investment decisions for EM technology development are best guided by a comprehensive understanding of the cost framework and operational complexities of an EM program. We draw on existing operational EM programs to identify technology development choices with at-sea monitoring systems, data analysis tools, remote communications and program efficiency tools in order to illustrate how strategic investment choices can influence program efficacy and costs.