Video cameras new addition to monitoring catches
By Laine Welch
July 29, 2005
Trawl boats over 60 feet are required by law to carry onboard observers who record catches of groundfish, such as pollock, cod, rockfish and flounders. They also track accidental takes of fish like halibut that trawlers are not allowed to catch. Observers do their best, but their coverage can often be sketchy. And the cost for observers in the Gulf fisheries can top $700 a day.
Twenty three boats volunteered for the video scrutiny, but only enough cameras were available for ten. The vessels are rigged with multiple video cameras - one focuses on the entire catch as it comes aboard, two others watch the discard chutes to see what fish is discarded. The cameras can run 'round the clock, and all data is locked up in a special security system. Two companies are contracted to do the videos - Kodiak-based Digital Observers, and Archipelago Marine Unlimited of Canada, which has the most experience in the world deploying and developing electronic monitoring, according to Al Burch, director of the Alaska Draggers Assn.
"If we can use the videos to assure that nothing is being thrown overboard, then all the catch accounting can be done by observers at the plant after the boat delivers," said Julie Bonney, director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank.
Good catch accounting is even more critical as managers move towards dividing up portions of many species among fishermen and harvest cooperatives. Kodiak's groundfish industry will be the first to cut its teeth on such a quota share plan with a pilot rockfish program starting in 2007.
"All of a sudden we find ourselves in a very different position where we are no longer estimating catches on a broad, fleet wide level. Now we are trying to set up a program that allows us to account very accurately for the separate quotas that are caught," said Alan Kinsolving, program coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.
Bonney said the use of videos will help develop two key components for a quota based fishing system. "One is monitoring mechanisms that are economical, yet meet the catch accounting needs. The other is bycatch management where the fleet and processors work cooperatively to do real time reporting, so boats can adjust and move if they run into bycatch problems," she explained.
The use of videos could also fill "black holes" in catch accounting by smaller boats. For example, no observers are required on trawlers under 60 feet, although they comprise 92 percent of the Gulf fleet and take nearly 60 percent of the groundfish catch. Likewise, the longline halibut fishery has no requirement for observer coverage. "We know what's delivered, but we don't know what's going over the side. If we all care about sustainable fisheries and good catch data, we all need to step up to the plate and get the information that's needed," Bonney said.
Kinsolving said there never
has been a project in the country that has included such broad
participation from the fishing industry. "We have every
processor and 23 out of 25 boats. So it's very representative
and a great way to develop a program that meets the needs of
both management and industry," he said. Al Burch added:
"And we will continue it until we get where we need to go."
August 1 marks another milestone. "That is when all the people to whom quota was issued are required to submit applications for their annual permits. That is what actually tells them how many pounds of crab they may harvest," Smith explained.
The first fishery to operate under the new management system - Western Aleutian golden crab - will hit the water on August 15. Just six participants will share a total catch of 5.7 million pounds.
A glance at the breakdown of
crab quota holders shows that most companies and individuals
are not from Alaska. The lists are posted on the NOAA Fisheries
Alaska region web page under BSAI Crab Rationalization at www.fakr.noaa.gov
The forum has three themes: air (wildlife), land (communities) and sea, which will focus on fisheries. "We're bringing together people from all the response agencies to learn what their organizations did, and how they might work together better in the event of another spill. It's sort of a look back to a better future," said Reid Brewer, a Marine Advisory Agent with the University of Alaska/Fairbanks Sea Grant Program.
Despite the distance and expense,
Brewer said speakers from across Alaska and the nation jumped
at the chance to come to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. "So much
research is based out of here. It's such a great place for them
to experience the culture of a fantastic, rural Alaska
community and share ideas with other researchers," he added.
The ALF will occur August 17-19 followed by a community festival
on the 20th. Get more details at www.aleutianlifeforum.org or
via email at email@example.com
The September 11-15 gathering will bring more than 2000 attendees from all over North America and the world to Anchorage. "It's a very big deal," said event co-organizer, Steve Grabacki of Graystar Pacific Seafood. The conference will begin with a slide show of Alaska fishing photos. "We want to shock and awe them with pictures of fish, fishing, processingthe idea is to show them a whole mosaic of how big and diverse the Alaska seafood industry is," Grabacki said.
No payments will be made,
but photographers do merit some benefits. "They will help
spread good news about Alaska's fishing industry, and they get
onscreen credit," Grabacki said. He added that all photos
must be very high resolution because they will be projected on
a 30 foot screen. Send photos (or questions) via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
or contact Steve Grabacki at 907-272-5600.
Starting each year on July 1, two local canneries post their weekly totals on a big sign on Main Street. "It's kind of like a gas station sign where you flip the numbers to show the price of gas, but it represents millions of cans packed. We get a fork lift and every week, sometimes twice a week towards end of the season, we update the numbers in view of the public as they drive down the street," said Patrick Wilson of Icicle's Petersburg Fisheries.
Wilson said no one has ever guessed the exact amount. "The closest guess has been within 3,000 cans or so," he said. "Some think the cannery people have the edge, but no one really has a clue. People check forecast numbers and look at past years, talk with fishermen, work up spread sheets. They really get into it."
Participants record their guesses
on tickets ($2 each), which are collected on the third Saturday
in August and locked up in a safe. The winners are announced
at a special event in early October - the Humpy 500, in which
kids race down the street in decorated oil drums that represent
cans of salmon. Cash prizes of $2,000 and $1,000 are awarded
for the two closest guesses. The rest of ticket sales go to local
scholarships. Wilson said winners have come from as far
away as Australia. Petersburg's record pink pack topped
38 million cans in 1999.
Publish A Letter on SitNews Read Letters/Opinions
Submit A Letter to the Editor