In 2011, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) implemented a Council-developed catch share program for the West Coast limited entry groundfish trawl fishery (the trawl catch share program). The program requires that each vessel acquire quota pounds to cover its catch (including discards) of nearly all groundfish species. Exceptions were made for some species that are rarely caught in the trawl groundfish fishery.
The program required some form of at-sea monitoring to ensure that discards are tracked for each vessel, and specified that this be done through 100% at-sea observer coverage. Program participants would be responsible for the full cost of observer coverage, so the industry was interested in finding a less costly way to monitor catch and discards at sea.
Some participants have experienced difficulties in securing observers in a timely or consistent manner, so vessels may prefer the flexibility to turn on an electronic monitoring (or video monitoring) system and leave port immediately instead of waiting for an observer. Such a system would work to monitor compliance with individual fishing quotas. Therefore, electronic monitoring was explored as a flexible and less expensive substitute for human observers in the catch share program.