Operationalizing Open-Source Electronic Monitoring Systems in New England Groundfish Sectors

Operationalizing Open-Source Electronic Monitoring Systems in New England Groundfish Sectors

Rachel Long, Amanda Barney, Croy Carlin, Jessica Joyce, Michelle Loquine, Ben Martens, Geoff Smith, Lucy Van Hook, Clark Van Oyen, Andrea Robertson, and Racheal Weymer

Operationalizing Open-Source Electronic Monitoring Systems in New England Groundfish SectorsThis is part of Fisheries Bycatch: Global Issues and Creative Solutions
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At-sea monitoring is a common method of fishery-dependent data collection in many fisheries around the world. Electronic monitoring has proven to be a successful alternative internationally, in British Columbia’s groundfish and Dungeness crab fisheries, for example, and has gained attention across New England through recent developments from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the New England Fishery Management Council. Due to recent federal budget cuts and looming industry cost-sharing mechanisms there is a need to explore more cost effective and sustainable alternatives to at-sea monitoring in regions such as New England. Despite these efforts, further research is needed to operationalize catch-handling protocols for effective data analysis, along with affordable methods to successfully implement electronic monitoring in the New England groundfish sectors.

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute, along with The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Community Sector, and Ecotrust Canada, is conducting a three-year electronic monitoring project that will develop and test an affordable, open-source electronic monitoring system on active groundfish vessels across both gillnet and trawl gear types. Though there are currently no federal technical data specifications in the region, the data collected meet expected technical standards, which project partners are collaborating with the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop and are scheduled for release in time for the 2016 fishing year. The data are also being compared to data reported by the fishermen as well as those of at-sea monitors. It is hoped that this work will validate self-reported data, build on existing federal initiatives, and introduce an additional electronic monitoring provider to increase capacity and further the operationalization of electronic monitoring in preparation for regulatory approval. Preliminary findings in year one uncovered three key lessons learned: (1) the need for an intellectual property and data confidentiality agreement; (2) the utility of vessel monitoring plans (VMPs); and (3) the importance of a real-time feedback loop that will be used in years two and three to improve the quantity and quality of the data being collected by the electronic monitoring system. All of these lessons can be applied to electronic monitoring projects across a variety of global fisheries in the future; none are limited to the groundfish fishery in New England.

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