New Fisheries Observer Program Begins Jan. 1

The new fisheries observer program for Alaska’s commercial
groundfish and halibut fisheries beginsJan. 1, making big changes to how
observers are deployed, how observer coverage is funded and which vessels and
processed are observed. Officials with the Alaska regional office of the
National Marine Fisheries Service said these changes would increase the
statistical reliability of data collected by the program, address cost
inequality among fishery participants, and expand observer coverage to
previously unobserved fisheries. This change is necessary to successfully
manage our Alaskan fishery resources, said NOAA officials, who had worked
closely with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, fishermen, processors
and other stakeholders to restructure the observer program.
Observer requirements for fisheries off Alaska have been in
place since the mid-1970s and have been mostly unchanged since the observer
program was implemented in 1990. Final action to restructure the observer
program and change observer coverage requirements for commercial vessels and
processing plants operating in federal groundfish and halibut fisheries off
Alaska was taken in October 2010 by the federal council.
Vessels and processors in the full observer coverage
category, who are required to have at least one observer at all times, will
retain the current funding and observer deployment system, and continue to
contract directly with observer provider companies and pay the full cost of their
own observer coverage.
Vessels and processors in the partial observer coverage
category will have a new funding and deployment system and pay a fee for their
observer overage based on the ex-vessel value of their groundfish and halibut.
The fee for each landing will be split between vessel owners and processors
with processors remitting the fee liability to NOAA Fisheries through an annual
billing. NOAA Fisheries is providing start-up funding for the first year of the
new program. Fees collected from the industry will fund the program in
subsequent years.