The Groundfish Electronic Monitoring Policy Advisory Committee (GEMPAC) and Groundfish Electronic Monitoring Technical Advisory Committee (GEMTAC) met via webinar twice in early 2017 to discuss final recommendations for an electronic monitoring program for the non-whiting midwater trawl fishery for rockfish, as well as the bottom trawl fishery. The GEMPAC revised its preferred alternatives it selected in September 2014, and reported to the Council at its April meeting.
In April, the Council received an EFP update and reviewed draft regulations and reports from California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and Council advisory bodies. At the meeting, the Council selected its preferred alternative and provided recommendations to NMFS on implementing an electronic monitoring program for the non-whiting midwater trawl and bottom trawl fisheries.
In April the Council also asked NMFS to examine the feasibility of using Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) as a sole provider for the industry to conduct the video reviews and to develop new discard mortality rates for halibut when vessels use electronic monitoring. In September, NMFS determined that NMFS could not designate any service provider as a sole provider; however, PSMFC could compete for contracts as a third-party video provider for the industry or act on behalf of NMFS to audit or track compliance of third-party video review providers, but not both at the same time.
In November 2017, the Council adopted Pacific halibut discard mortality rates (DMR) for the bottom trawl and non-whiting midwater trawl fisheries using electronic monitoring. The modeled mortality rates as described below were to be applied in 2018. All vessels were required to use best handling practices when discarding for the modeled rate to be applied, otherwise a default rate of 90 percent would be applied.
For the bottom trawl fishery:
- If an observer is not present to assess the viability of all halibut, implement a DMR rate for each halibut discarded under EM using time on deck as described in the GMT model under Agenda Item F.11.a, GMT Report 1.
For the non-whiting midwater trawl fishery, the following will be applied:
- When a vessel declares optimized retention, a default rate of 90 percent will be applied to all halibut that are discarded.
- When a vessel declares maximized retention, the halibut must be landed and a DMR of 100 percent will be applied.
The Council also recommended that a species be added or removed from the allowable discard species list under an inseason action during one Council meeting and vessel monitoring plans be updated to reflect the change. A proposed rule to implement the electronic monitoring program elements for the bottom trawl and non-whiting midwater trawl fisheries was planned for summer, 2018.
Finally, the Council asked the Executive Director to explore opportunities to create a designated funding mechanism for electronic monitoring to help offset the cost of electronic monitoring, similar to that used by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council as authorized in Section 314 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.