The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has issued a reminder of the Jan. 1 start date for the new fisheries observer program for Alaska’s federal commercial groundfish and halibut fisheries.
The new observer program will change how observers are deployed, how observer coverage is funded and the pool of vessels and processors that must have some or all of their operations observed. State officials say the changes will increase the statistical reliability o data collected by the program, address cost inequality among fishery participants, and expand observer coverage to previously unobserved fisheries.
The program primarily affects those vessels that have been determined to need partial coverage, meaning they are not required to carry an observer during all fishing trips. Operations in the partial coverage category will be randomly selected for observer coverage when fishing for halibut or when directed fishing for groundfish in the federally managed or state parallel groundfish fisheries with a federal fisheries permit. Regulations for this program us the common definition for “parallel groundfish fishery” as a fishery occurring in state waters that are open at the same time as federal groundfish fisheries in federal waters, and groundfish catch is deducted from the federal total allowable catch.
Observer coverage in the partial coverage category will be funded through revenue generated from an exvessel value-based fee. That fee is 1.25 percent of the exvessel value of the groundfish and halibut subject to the fee, based on standardized prices that will be published in the Federal Register, and is intended to be split evenly between the vessel owner/operator and processor or registered buyer. Landings subject to the observer fee include fish harvested in the exclusive economic zone and in state waters where the catch is subtracted from the federal total allowable catch and the vessel is carrying a federal fisheries permit.
More information on the restructured program is at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/observers/