Alaska Trawl Harvesters Working to Expand Electronic Pelagic Pollock Fishery Monitoring

Alaska pollock. Image: NOAA Fisheries.
Alaska pollock. Image: NOAA Fisheries.

Gulf of Alaska (GOA) trawl fishermen are working to expand electronic monitoring from the pelagic pollock fishery to the Central Gulf of Alaska rockfish program.

Using electronic monitoring and other technology to provide cost-effective monitoring and better prohibited species catch accounting has always been a goal for the trawl catcher vessels, Chelsae Radell, assistant director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank in Kodiak, noted in the June 30 edition of the online publication EM4Fish.

In 2007 and 2008, Alaska Groundfish Data Bank (AGDB) received exempted fishing permits (EFPs) to test the use of electronic monitoring to quantify at-sea halibut discards in the GOA rockfish program.

While the EFPs showed that electronic monitoring was possible, limitations in its use at the time meant it was neither a cost-effective or feasible option to implement at scale.

More than 15 years later, the electronic monitoring capacity of the GOA trawl fleet has grown substantially with the pelagic pollock trawl electronic monitoring program. That program has operated as an exempted fishing permits program since 2020 and will be fully regulated beginning in 2025.

Radell notes that there is significant overlap between the CGOA pollock and rockfish fisheries. Of the 26 vessels that regularly participate in the Central Gulf rockfish program, all are also pollock fishermen, and 23 of the vessels already have EM systems that they use in the pelagic pollock trawl EM program.

Significant issues with observer availability, the number of down days between trips and increasingly expensive observer costs for the Central gulf rockfish program led them to take another look at EM for the fishery in 2022.

Having EM systems already on vessels and the protocols in place for the pollock fishery is a large cost savings if they could also be applied in the rockfish program fishery, she said.