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FMA Hosts Electronic Fisheries Monitoring Workshop

electronic monitoring gear
Figure 1.  Electronic monitoring gear (foreground) being prepared for installation on a longline vessel.  One of the video cameras that will be mounted to the vessel is in the lower left corner.

Participants representing Federal, state, and international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, observer providers, and members of the fishing industry met in July for a 2-day workshop on electronic fisheries monitoring technology (EM), which was held at the NOAA Sand Point facility in Seattle. The goal of the workshop was to assess the current state of EM in fisheries, its applicability to research and management of North Pacific fisheries, its potential, and to identify research and development needs. Interest in the use of EM for monitoring fisheries has increased in recent years due to growing needs and limitations of using onboard human observers for some applications. Several video-based EM applications have been developed, and many are currently in use in the North Pacific
(Figs. 1 and 2). During the workshop, video applications within the context of broader electronic monitoring technologies and information systems and the potential for incorporation with other data and data acquisition systems were reviewed.

The workshop's keynote address, presented by Howard McElderry, Archipelago Marine Research (AMR), focused on an assessment of the current state of video applications in fisheries in the United States and internationally. AMR has conducted numerous pilot studies on EM, and this technology is being used on approximately 500 fishing vessels. EM systems employ closed-circuit television cameras, a GPS receiver, a hydraulic pressure sensor, a winch sensor, and a system control box. These systems can be used on a variety of fishing vessels to monitor a range of information needs such as catch location, catch composition, catch handling, fishing methods, interactions with protected species, and mitigation measures. EM technology is a useful tool for fisheries monitoring and is viewed as an adjunct to, but not a replacement of, onboard (human) observers who can collect larger amounts of data on a more detailed level.

  observer collecting data
Figure 2.  An observer (facing camera) collects data while two cameras, shown in the upper right quadrant of the image, videotape fish captured on longline gear.

The keynote address and discussion were followed by five moderated panels consisting of panel member presentations and discussion. The first day of the workshop brought participants to a general understanding of the current knowledge related to use of EM in fisheries. The first panel was moderated by Martin Loefflad, FMA Director, and provided a summary of the lessons learned to date from video applications in fisheries. The second panel, moderated by Nicole Kimball, North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC), shared perspectives from the fishing industry. The challenges faced by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in implementation of video systems were the focus of the third panel, moderated by Chris Oliver, NPFMC.

The second day of the workshop focused on the future of video monitoring in fisheries management. The fourth panel, moderated by Jennifer Watson, NMFS Alaska Regional Office, reviewed ongoing research projects and identified potential future applications of electronic monitoring in fisheries. Clarence Pautzke, North Pacific Research Board (NPRB), moderated the last panel, which focused on research and development advancements and future needs. The workshop concluded with a preliminary synthesis of the presentations and panel discussions as well as an opportunity for all participants to comment.

The FMA Division has been involved in several projects to assess the use of EM in the North Pacific groundfish fisheries. Research conducted during the Gulf of Alaska rockfish fishery in 2007 and continuing in 2008 is evaluating the use of EM to quantify the amount of Pacific halibut discarded at sea by trawl vessels. During 2008 FMA staff have been working with staff from the International Pacific Halibut Commission and AMR to collect data to evaluate the use of EM and standard observer sampling methods on commercial longline vessels that are not required to carry observers due to the small size of the vessels. The field component of this project will be completed this year. EM technology is currently in use, along with onboard observers, on specific catcher processor vessels in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands fisheries.

EM has potential for enhancing at-sea monitoring needs, yet it cannot meet all monitoring needs. The technology may be useful for monitoring catch handling on a variety of fishing vessels. On some vessels multiple cameras may be required to effectively monitor all areas of catch handling and for some vessels this may not be feasible. EM may also be used to monitor fishing duration and location issues. Biological sampling is a critical component of many at-sea monitoring programs, and EM alone is not effective in meeting this objective. Collections of biological data such as fish length and weight as well as otolith and tissue samples are best performed by onboard observers. Investigations into use of EM continue to improve its utility and assess the applicability of EM to a variety of at-sea monitoring needs.

The workshop proceedings are available online at

By Allison Barns and Patti Nelson

Download the complete research report:  PDF; 7.8 MB *

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