Cameras could replace onboard human observers for some fishing boats

How an electronic monitor sees and records fishing activities. (Photo courtesy NOAA)

Pot cod and longline vessel skippers fishing in federal waters have until Thursday to decide whether they want to sign up for electronic monitoring for 2019.

The electronic monitoring program uses cameras and recording equipment to keep track of the kinds of fish coming on board, as opposed to the more traditional way of bringing human observers on board a vessel.

Abby Turner-Franke is with the North Pacific Fisheries Association based out of Homer. She says vessels 60 feet and under can now sign up for the program.

“So for pot cod fishing vessels you’re going to have three cameras on board that are watching the deck from different angles so that an observer that’s reviewing that video can tell what’s coming on board, how many, what species,” she said. “They work directly with the crew of the vessels to establish what the best angles are, what the best placement is for their fishing practices. It’s very customized to each vessel. So they get pretty great data.”

Turner-Franke says electronic monitors don’t get seasick, don’t get distracted and don’t need any extra space onboard.

“I wouldn’t put it in terms of better or worse, but it’s very different,” she said. “Human observers are capable of taking biological samples that a camera can’t.  However, it also takes an extra bunk to carry a human observer, so having a camera onboard is a huge bonus, especially for vessels under 60 feet.”

The deadline to sign up for electronic monitoring is Thursday, Nov. 1.