Poster by: Howard McElderry, Archipelago Research Ltd.
The US shore-based whiting (Merluccius productus) midwater trawl fishery is a high volume spring/summer fishery operating off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and northern California, consisting of ~30 vessels making day fishing trips. Total removals are estimated from landed catch and no discards are permitted. Full retention regulations were monitored from 2004 to 2010 using Electronic Monitoring, with each vessel equipped with closed circuit television cameras, GPS, winch and hydraulic sensors. Over the seven year monitoring program, EM system sensor and image data collection success exceeded 96% for most years. Early monitoring results provided a clearer understanding of fishing practices, providing a more realistic policy on permissible levels of ‘operational discarding’. The increased transparency provided by monitoring resulted in a significant decline in at sea discards; total discard quantities declined by 90% to under 0.3% of the TAC. In 2004, nearly all vessels discarded. By 2010, over 60% had little or none, transforming discard practices from common to infrequent. Correlation between EM data and fishing logbooks was very high for discard events (89% or higher) but low in terms of discard quantities (R2=0.35). The program was co-funded by industry and NMFS at an average cost of ~$180 per sea day. Although the EM program significantly improved compliance and the quality of catch data, it was discontinued in 2011 when the groundfish trawl fleet implemented a catch share quota system with 100% observer coverage, funded by NMFS.