WDFW Celebrates Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery’s Electronic Monitoring Project

Image via Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife say the coastal commercial Dungeness crab fishery is the state’s most economically significant commercial fishery, with an average annual ex-vessel value of about $46.5 million.

The fishery is managed by WDFW along with four coastal treaty tribes and Harvest Management Plans between each tribe and WDFW are negotiated annually, in accordance with federal adjudication of fishing rights. Agreements often include temporary area-based measures, such as closures and/or pot limits, to achieve harvest sharing parity.

Fishing location data for the non-tribal fleet, including data used to track harvest sharing throughout the season is currently collected using paper vessel logbooks and buyers’ fish receiving tickets.

Robert Morgan, manager of the Region 6 Coastal Shellfish Electronic Monitoring Project for WDFW, said fleetwide implementation of electronic monitoring will improve accuracy and timely receipt of fishing location data needed to effectively meet co-management needs, to enforce closed area boundaries, to help assess entanglement risk with marine mammals, and to protect public health in the event of a biotoxin closure.

WDFW officials noted that a new electronic monitoring system, the FishVue LIME (Lite Integrated Monitoring Equipment) designed by AI technology and data analytics company Archipelago, offers affordability, a relatively small footprint, capability to incorporate a hydraulic sensor and compatibility with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags.

Such a system offers many benefits for small scale fishing operations, they said.

WDFW plans to continue assessing electronic monitoring data to determine how electronic monitoring can best meet management needs of the Washington coastal Dungeness crab fishery. The agency said project results will be used to determine system requirements for implementation of EM that meets management and operational needs of the coastal crab fishery.