Moving Toward Electronic Monitoring in U.S. Fisheries – Step by Step

Photo: Net Gains Alliance

Fishers around the world are increasingly using electronic monitoring (EM) technologies such as cameras, gear sensors, and electronic reporting (ER) to improve the timeliness, quality, cost-effectiveness, and accessibility of fisheries data collection in commercial fishing operations, and the U.S. is working to set the pace.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced two workshops to educate and foster an environment for collaboration on EM.  In addition, a strong coalition of industry, managers and other stakeholders called the Net Gains Alliance recently funded four projects to find solutions to overcome specific barriers to greater EM/ER adoption across U.S. fisheries.

Why This Matters:  It’s time to bring fisheries management into the 21st century using the best available technology.  Fish stocks are shifting their ranges due to climate change, according to the recent UN IPCC report on oceans, and they will continue to move in the future given the ocean warming trends.  The U.S. has a fantastic law that requires fisheries to be managed using the best science and to maximize fishing yields while maintaining sustainability and eliminating overfishing.  But given the ocean changes, the law alone is not sufficient.  The agency needs to improve its implementation – and lead the way. If they don’t get on with it, it could be too late for fish stocks that are on the move.  The head of the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service recently testified before the Senate that he could not speculate on how climate change is impacting U.S. fisheries.

NOAA’s Been Doing EM/ER Pilot Projects For Years

According to NOAA’s Fisheries Service website, “13 EM projects and programs have been implemented covering more than 400 vessels in 11 fisheries, technology has advanced, yet challenges remain as EM programs expand and mature.”  And the agency has implemented EM in five U.S. fisheries — the most recent EM program uses on-board cameras to track the bycatch of bluefin tuna on boats in the Atlantic pelagic longline fishery.

Net Gains Alliance Grants

The Alliance recently announced four initial grants, though additional funding for other data modernization projects will be available in 2020. The initial projects are:

  1. User-centered design for West Coast commercial fisheries data,
  2. Integrated fishery reporting on the East Coast,
  3. For-hire electronic reporting, and
  4. Data sharing agreements for Pacific highly migratory species.

The group selected these projects because they build capacity and data literacy in fisheries around the country, meet a core need that a region identified, expand existing work, can help to inform the creation of national guidance, span fisheries and regions, and are affordable and leverage other sources of funding.  

To Go Deeper: Watch the Net Gains Webinar about the projects they just selected and what they hope to accomplish.

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