A video camera provided by Archipelago Marine Research based out of British Columbia is assembled on the Dawn T fishing vessel at Saquatucket harbor in Harwich, Cape Cod on April 26, 2016. Photo by Lauren Owens / for The Nature Conservancy.


Starting next year, cameras can be used instead of humans to track what’s coming and going over the boat rails.  It applies to boats using longline and pot gear with  boats between 40 and 60 feet getting priority.

The deadline to sign up for an electronic monitoring system is November 1.

“If you don’t get in by the deadline you will definitely not be eligible.”

Malcolm Milne is president of the Homer-based North Pacific Fisherman’s Association which for several years has helped develop the EM system in Alaska.

The cameras proved they could track and identify over 95 percent of the species required for fishery management decisions.

Milne says a big push for EM came from owners of smaller boats which simply can’t accommodate an extra person on board.

That along with the eventual cost savings makes it a great program and option for collecting fisheries data.”

By all accounts, the EM system is simple to use.

“Once your boat’s wired you get a camera on and instead of carrying a human observer you just turn the cameras on and they will record everything coming over the rails and when the set is done the camera is off and at the end of your trip you mail in the hard drive which will be reviewed in Seattle.  It took a trip or two to get used to the whole system but once you’re used to it you don’t even realize it’s there at all.”

Also easy, Milne says, is the sign up which takes about 10 minutes.

“Anyone who is participating in the observer program has a user name and password  and you can go in and click on a button for opting in to EM and you’re done after a couple of quick questions.”

Even better, the EM systems come at no cost to users.

“All equipment in 2018 – it all comes out of the observer fees so we are paying indirectly but there is no additional cost for having the electronic monitoring installed. So if you’re interested I’d sign up now.”

About 110 longline and pot boats have signed onto the EM program so far and fishery managers will only cover as many boats as funding allows.

“The program definitely depends on having enough boats to have the economies of scale work to make it cost effective. If there’s only a few boats we have the infrastructure built up and it just doesn’t pay for itself. But once we get enough boats covering the fixed costs of running the program it really makes for a cost efficient way to get fisheries management data.” 

You can register with a phone call  (1-855-747-6377), Milne says, or online at the Observer Declare and Deploy System (ODD).

Go to your computer now and sign up. Nov. 1 is coming up fast.”