Alaska Restructured Observer Program - Electronic Monitoring Option Removed from Proposed Rule
The undersigned groups and individuals cannot support the restructured observer program until electronic monitoring (EM) is provided as the preferred option for collecting at-sea catch and bycatch data from fixed gear sablefish and halibut vessels to start with. We support the goals of the restructured observer program and are willing to pay a fair share of the future observer coverage costs. We are willing to provide at-sea data, but need a system that works for our fleet. Under the restructured program, the sablefish/halibut fleet will pay 67% of program costs; some of those funds must be dedicated to developing and implementing EM. Electronic monitoring will provide NMFS with observer data without imposing the unnecessary costs associated with placing human observers on the 1,400 small businesses that will soon be charged with providing at-sea data. EM is a cost effective and less economically burdensome alternative for gathering at-sea data from the fixed gear fleet. We ask that NMFS commit to: 1) Dedicating 15% of the fees assessed on the industry to fund development, implementation and integration of EM; 2) Establishing EM as the preferred monitoring tools for the fixed gear sablefish/halibut fleet starting in 2013.