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The FMA Division's Continuing Role in the Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Pilot Program

Observers Nicole Hageman and Ariane Frappier collect specimens for an AFSC rockfish maturity project.  Photo by Rob Swanson.

The Central Gulf of Alaska (GOA) Rockfish Pilot Program (RPP) is an example of a fishery which transitioned as a pilot program from open access to a Limited Access Privilege Program (LAPP). Launched in 2007, the RPP has been a highly successful program due to collaboration between NMFS and industry participants.

A description of the project at inception is available in the April-June 2007 issue of the AFSC Quarterly Report) Outcomes of the RPP include reduced halibut bycatch rates, reduced discard rates, and increase in production of high-value products (Catch Share Spotlight No. 11 (

The Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis (FMA) Division plays an active role in ensuring the fine-scale quota monitoring needs of this limited access program are met.

Prior to the RPP, the GOA rockfish fishery was a derby style race for fish and typically only lasted for about 3 weeks. Participating catcher vessels were required to carry an observer during 30% of their fishing days within the target fishery. The RPP is a share-based management program permitting harvesters to form voluntary cooperative associations and receive exclusive harvest privilege. Through cooperative management of the fishery, participants may adopt conservation-minded practices without forfeiting overall opportunity in the fishery as would occur in a derby style fishery. As a result, the fishing season has extended from mid-May to November.

Participating vessels are required to carry observers during 100% of their fishing days due to the need for high resolution data to track quotas within a LAPP. Additionally, shoreside processors have been required to have an observer to cover each 12 hour period during which it receives or processes fish, and the observer may not be concurrently assigned to another processor.

A close working relationship between the FMA Division and observer providers is essential to ensuring that observers and equipment are in place when needed. FMA staff also work closely with industry representatives to address any data issues that may affect a cooperative’s ability to manage their fleet’s quota. Data collected for the RPP are transmitted to FMA's main office via custom software.

The approximately 35 participating catcher vessels share 16 laptop computers equipped with custom at-sea data entry software. Observers on catcher vessels enter their data while at sea; the data are transmitted from the processing plant because the laptop computers are not equipped with the necessary data transmission software. Eight catcher processor vessels typically participate in this fishery and are required to be equipped with the at-sea data entry and transmission software at all times. FMA staff ensure that the hardware and software are functioning correctly and are able to transmit data in a timely manner.

The RPP also has created new opportunities for scientific studies on rockfish. FMA field staff work closely with other AFSC staff and observers to collect specimens for a study of development and spawning maturity in several rockfish species. The longer fishing season enables the collection of specimens at varying stages of maturity, thereby permitting scientists to better understand the reproductive biology and seasonality of spawning for each species. The data from these collections are used for stock assessments and for managing the fishery.

The RPP was created as a pilot program and will expire after the 2011 fishing season. However, during its June 2010 meeting, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council took final action to define a rockfish catch share program to replace the RPP to allow continuation of this valuable fishery. The details of the Council's recent action can be found on the Council's website at As NMFS works to implement the Council's action, FMA staff will work to ensure that the information needs from this fishery are met now and into the future.

By Allison Barns and Rob Swanson


Download the complete research report:  PDF; 4.4 MB.  (To view and print this document, you must install Adobe Acrobat Reader freeware. Adobe also offers free tools for the visually disabled.)

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