The North Pacific Fisheries Association, a local commercial fishing organization in Homer, was awarded $65,000 by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to develop electronic monitoring in federal fisheries off Alaska.
NPFA is partnering with Saltwater Inc., an Alaskan observer company this summer to develop technologies that will enable small boats to carry a camera in lieu of a human observer.
The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service are implementing a restructured fishery observer program to begin in 2013. The restructured program will include vessels under 60 feet and halibut vessels of all sizes for the first time. NMFS will soon be able to determine the frequency and areas where they want observer coverage for all vessel sizes.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is assisting fishing industry efforts funded through a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to develop and operate electronic monitoring technology. This is for use on small hook and line vessels where human observation can be challenging, and, at times, impossible, stated a release from the Homer group Tuesday morning.
Buck Laukitis, NPFA’s president, said the group’s members saw the new observer requirement rapidly approaching.
“And yet little work was being done on the electronic monitoring component of it, so we applied for the grant. We want to help develop a lower cost alternative to human observers for small boats that is the least intrusive functional program possible,” Laukitis said in the release. “We want a program that will work for family fishermen as well as for the data needs of the federal managers.”
North Pacific Fisheries Association (established in 1955) is a group of commercial fishermen who participate in fisheries from Dixon Entrance in Southeast Alaska to Adak and north to St. Matthew Island. Its members fish salmon, cod, halibut, black cod, and crab throughout the state but live in Homer. NPFA is a United Fishermen of Alaska member group.
NPFA board members, Don Lane, Ian Pitzman and Malcolm Milne, and Saltwater Inc.’s, Tom Miller and Kathryn Carovano, are organizing a port meeting in early June in the Homer Harbor. They will review camera placement on conventional longliners, as well as snap-on boats. Fishermen are invited to discuss the objectives of the grant. Later in the summer several boats will deploy the new cameras as well as a Saltwater employee on a halibut trip. Fishermen who are interested in working on this project are encouraged to attend.
“I’ve personally been in situations where there are no observers available and it is time to go fishing,” Ian Pitzman said in the release. “Now NMFS is adding over a thousand more boats that may be required to carry an observer. There are only so many trained observers out there. Having an option to carry a camera to meet NMFS data needs is going to help everyone.”
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