Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Observer Program Changes for 2015

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Annual Deployment Plan (ADP) for the Observer program, reviewed each October by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC), calls for significant changes for small vessel participants in the Observer program.

NMFS proposes to use the trip-selection pool only to assign observers to vessels and will no longer use  the vessel-selection method for smaller vessels in 2015.  Since only single trips will be selected, the proposed method is expected to reduce the impact on smaller vessels.

The proposal calls for two categories within the trip-selection pool.  The small vessel trip-selection pool is comprised of catcher vessels (CV) that are fishing hook-and-line or pot gear and are greater than or equal to 40 ft, but less than 57.5 ft in length.  These vessels were in the “vessel-selection” pool for 2013 & 2014.  The other category, the large vessel trip-selection pool is made up of three classes of vessels: 1) all CVs fishing trawl gear, 2) CVs fishing hook-and-line or pot gear that are also greater than or equal to 57.5 ft, and 3) catcher-processor vessels exempted from full coverage requirements.  These vessels were in the “trip-selection” pool for 2013 and 2014.

The small vessel trip-selection pool vessels are likely to be selected for an observer 12% of trips compared to a 24% probability for the large vessel trip-selection participants. The selection rate for the former vessel-selection pool is the same as 2014, but large vessel trip-selection vessels will see a 50% increase in coverage rates compared to 2014.

Conditional releases will not be granted to the large vessel trip-selection pool vessels in 2015, and only granted to vessels in the small vessel trip-selection pool that do not have sufficient life-raft capacity to accommodate an observer.

Vessels selected to participate in Electronic Monitoring (EM) Cooperative Research will be in the no selection pool, not subject to observer coverage, while participating in such research.

The Observer Advisory Committee to the NPFMC will review the ADP at a meeting this week in Seattle.  The draft ADP is available through a link under item C1 of the NPFMC agenda, found here:  http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/2014/10/894_A_North_Pacific_Council_14-10-06_Meeting_Agenda.pdf