November 1 is the deadline for pot cod and longline vessels fishing in federal waters to sign up for electronic monitoring of their catches instead of onboard observers for 2019. And the EM program has been expanded to include more and larger boats.

This year was the first time that the EM systems got the go ahead for use on boats under 60 feet.

“It was an alternative to having to give up a bunk or scoot around each other in the galley or on deck. That was the initial reason for starting up the electronic monitoring program.”

Abby Turner-Franke is project coordinator at the North Pacific Fisheries Association in Homer, which for several years has helped get the EM program out on the water.

The number of boats that can opt for EM, she says, has been increased for next year.

“The cap from last year for 2018 was 145 vessels and I think we came in a couple vessels shy of that target. Since then the NPFMC in June increased that cap for the number of vessels that can participate in the EM pool to 165.”

Boats over 60 feet also can now apply for EM instead of human observers. Turner-Franke says another benefit has been added –

“For example, if you are longlining for halibut you can now fish your shares in multiple areas during one trip, whereas before they would have to come in, offload and then schedule another trip in that separate area.”


It takes only a few minutes to sign up for electronic monitoring and all costs are covered by grants from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. Malcolm Milne, NPFA president, says the system is simple to use.

 “Once your boat is 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.”

In years of test trials, the EM cameras proved they could track and identify over 95 percent of the species required for fishery management decisions.

Fishermen wanting to opt in or opt out of the EM program for 2019 must contact the Observer Declare and Deploy System (ODD) online or by phone by November 1.    (1-855-747-6377)

That Nov 1 deadline is a hard deadline so if people want to sign up now is the time to do it because you only have a few more days.

Click here for more info on the EM program —

                     Nov. 18-20, Seattle