Progress Reported in Implementing Pot Cod Fleet Monitoring

An electronic monitoring (EM) project for Alaska’s pot cod fishery is building on two prior pilot projects by North Pacific Fisheries Association (NPFA) and Saltwater Inc. to determine the feasibility of this technology.

A critical goal of this pre-implementation effort is to develop sustainable infrastructure to support long-term implementation of EM in Alaska, says Nancy Munro, of Saltwater Inc., an observer and EM service provider based in Anchorage.

Munro was in Kodiak for ComFish 2017 to discuss the project in a forum with others on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s EM working team.

The project tests a model that focuses on the importance of high quality data and cost effectiveness, and highlights skipper engagement, integration of observers into the EM program, cross training of skilled EM personnel and a streamlined feedback loop between vessels and the data.

Saltwater has been collecting fisheries data via its observer programs for the past 30 years and EM data for the last eight. The firm currently provides EM services in multiple domestic fisheries, including Alaska’s fixed gear fishery.

The concept behind the project reflects the thinking of many industry participants, Munro said. With support from the National Marine Fisheries Service and North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the project is part of the pre-implementation of EM for Alaska’s fixed gear fleet.

“Considering the generic human resistance to change and the process of envisioning a program by a committee of competing interests, I think we’re doing OK,” Munro said. “We have a ways to go to design a program which will be cost effective for the industry, but we are making progress.

“As part of the pre-implementation model, current and prior NMFS observers are reviewing EM data in Anchorage. This has created a tight feedback loop between the boats and the data. With timely results, we are able to provide in-season feedback memos to vessels and correct issues that interfere with collecting good data. We are using open source review software, which decreases costs and encourage innovation,” she said.

Also packed into three days of ComFish were a number of other forums dealing with everything from fish politics to marketing efforts, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s global food aid program, and educational opportunities for young fishermen through the University of Alaska and Alaska Sea Grant programs.