Electronic monitoring equipment. (Photo Credit: NOAA)
Major milestone for electronic monitoring of US fisheries
Thursday, June 04, 2015, 22:50 (GMT + 9)
NOAA Fisheries has reached an important milestone: the first fleet-wide implementation of electronic monitoring in the United States. As of 1 June, 2015, electronic monitoring is required on all vessels fishing with pelagic longline gear in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
Required by Amendment 7 to the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, electronic monitoring is intended to provide an effective and efficient way to monitor and verify Atlantic bluefin tuna catches in the pelagic longline fishery. It provides an efficient means of verifying catches while minimizing the burden on fishermen and maintaining a viable fishery.
NOAA Fisheries highlights that it remains concerned about the status of Atlantic bluefin tuna and will continue to monitor this species closely.
In 2011, the federal agency announced that listing under the Endangered Species Act was not warranted, but formally designated bluefin tuna as a “species of concern.” This places the species on a watchlist for concerns about its status and threats to the species.
Because of the high value of individual bluefin tuna, and because pelagic longline fishermen must have Individual Bluefin Quotas (IBQs) to fish for other species with this gear, the ability to monitor and verify all bluefin tuna catches (landings and dead discards) is critical.
Electronic monitoring technology has been tested in numerous pilot studies across the country and is now a proven solution when fisheries managers need information of all catches.
Responding to concerns of the fishery, NOAA Fisheries both delayed the electronic monitoring requirement and provided funding for electronic monitoring equipment, installation, and training to reduce burden on fishermen and ensure a smooth transition to the new requirements.
This delay to 1 June, 2015, provided vessel owners the time and opportunity to coordinate with a NOAA Fisheries-contracted company to install the electronic monitoring systems. Electronic monitoring systems have been installed on approximately 100 pelagic longline vessels to date with an additional 15 vessels that are not fishing yet scheduled for early June.
NOAA Fisheries has identified funds to pay for the equipment and its installation for all of the currently eligible vessels (135 vessels). This eased the regulated community’s burden associated with the new monitoring requirements. However, funding for future equipment and installations is uncertain.
According to NOAA Fisheries, electronic monitoring is an innovative technical solution to ensuring this agency is able to collect necessary data on the status of Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks, which will eventually enable it to manage stocks based on the best available science.