NOAA to Sitka fishermen: Forget electronic monitoring for at least 2 years

A NOAA Fisheries official offered no short-term hope for Sitka small-boat bottom-fishermen who are objecting to the possibility of having on-board bycatch observers starting this year. In a meeting with about 45 fishermen last week, Martin Loefflad said electronic monitoring of potential bycatch in the halibut and black cod fishery is at least two years away, following NOAA testing that's starting this spring.  As KCAW reports, NOAA has already rejected a fishermen-proposed electronic monitoring program. The fishermen feel their boats are too small and there are too many expenses and complications involved in having a monitor aboard.

Speaking from the audience, Linda Behnken, the director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, noted that 90 percent of the catch was landed at on-shore processors, where this data could be easily collected. Loefflad suggested that was inadequate.

“If there are some beasts that never make it to the dock, the only way to get those beasts is on the boat.”

He went on to say that there was potential for cameras to have a primary role, with human observers in a secondary role, supplementing that information.

Loefflad said NOAA planned to spend about $200,000 testing electronic monitoring on volunteer boats this season. Besides scientific data, he said, there are other details to consider: Who’s obligated to power the system, who’s responsible for keeping it clean and functioning, and could a fishing trip be cut short if the electronic monitoring system failed?

Read more at KCAW: NOAA says no way to electronic monitoring for 2 years