On January 1st, there will be a sea change in the who, what, where and when of federal fisheries observer coverage for Alaska groundfish and halibut boats.
“The purpose is to improve data quality, to more equitably distribute industry cost and to include halibut vessels," said NOAA Fisheries spokeswoman Julie Speegle in Juneau. "So the changes are, vessels and processors in the full observer coverage category will retain the current funding and observer deployment system.”
She said it will be different for vessels that require only partial observer coverage:
“Those vessels that are not required to have an observer at all times will have a new funding and deployment system. And they will pay a fee for their observer coverage based on the ex-vessel value of their groundfish and halibut," Speegle said. "Now, the fee, for the first year, is covered by NOAA Fisheries.”
She did say that for jig boats less than 40-feet in length in the partial observer coverage category will not be selected for observer coverage for 2013.
She added that the new rules for observer coverage for groundfish and halibut boats were made after a lot of input by those affected in the industry:
“NOAA Fisheries worked closely with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, fishermen, processors and other stakeholders to restructure the observer program," she said. "The public comment processes was vital to helping to shape it.”
The rules go into effect on January 1st.