NOAA Fisheries has announced that effective Nov. 2, a new rule will implement electronic monitoring (EM) program regulations for vessels using groundfish bottom trawl and non-whiting midwater trawl gear in the Pacific Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program.
This move is expected to allow vessels using bottom trawl and non-whiting midwater trawl gear to use EM in place of human observers to meet their requirements for 100% at-sea catch monitoring.
The final rule is intended to boost operational flexibility and reduce monitoring costs for vessels in this groundfish trawl fishery. It also revises some language in existing regulations for EM vessels and EM service providers to clarify and streamline EM program requirements.
The Pacific Coast Groundfish Management Plan (FMP) specifies management measures for over 90 groundfish specials in federal waters off of states on the west coast of the United States. Target species in the commercial fishery include Pacific whiting (Hake), sablefish, dover sole and rockfish, all harvested by vessels primarily using midwater trawl and bottom trawl gear and, to a lesser extent, fixed bear fish pots and longline.
The trawl fishery is managed under the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program, which was implemented through Amendment 20 to the Groundfish Management Plan in January 2011.
The Catch Share Program requires 100% monitoring of vessels at sea and dockside when offloading, to ensure accountability for all landings and discards of allocated IFQ species.
The West Coast Groundfish Observer Program (WCGOP) is responsible for the training, briefing, and in-season support of at-sea observers in the Catch Share Program. WCGOP helps to manage and review the catch data collected by observers while at sea.
This final rule is accessible at the Office of the Federal Register website at https://www.federalregister.gov.