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Electronic Monitoring

Electronic Monitoring System Pilot Study

The Fisheries Sampling Branch (FSB) of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) is conducting a pilot program in conjunction with Archipelago Marine Research Ltd., to test the applicability of Electronic Monitoring System (EMS) technology to collect catch and fishing effort data aboard commercial vessels. The goal of the study is to evaluate the utility of EMS as a means to monitor catch on a real-time basis in the Northeast groundfish sector fleet. The project will document the 2010 groundfish fishing year with the option of two additional option periods. Participating vessels will incorporate a variety of ports in New England to account for differences in fishing activity in multiple geographic ranges and effectively assess the applicability of EMS in sector-based management. Data obtained from the study will be compared to other catch reporting sources such as observer and at-sea monitor data, vessel trip reports, study fleet, and dealer data to determine the efficiency of EMS. Results from the study will determine if EMS is a suitable alternative and more cost effective option to human observers.

The EMS System

EMS technology comprises a control box, user interface (monitor and keyboard), up to four closed circuit television cameras, a GPS receiver, a hydraulic pressure transducer, and a drum rotation sensor. The control box (mounted in the wheelhouse) receives input from eh sensors and logs digital video imagery. Cameras begin recording when the pressure transducer and drum sensor register activity (setting gear, retrieval, etc.). Cameras record activity on deck with a focus on discarded groundfish species. Cameras will be mounted in various locations based on these factors; size of vessel, type of fishery, hauling areas, discard chutes/conveyors/scuppers, stern/aft ramp and catch sorting areas.

EMS system

For more detailed information regarding the system, installation specifications regarding power needs and to determine if your vessel is suitable for the EMS system please refer to the Vessel Preparation Letter.

Study Statistics 

Ten volunteer vessels are equipped with the EMS system and are actively participating in the pilot program. Originally, the study allotted for 10 vessels, however, if there was additional interest FSB and Archipelago could accommodate up to 15 vessels.

The volunteer vessels represent the three primary groundfish gear types (gillnet, longline, and bottom otter trawl) and span ports from Point Judith, Rhode Island to Portland, Maine (see distribution map).

EMS Study Outreach 

The FSB has created a series of outreach materials available to interested industry members, sector managers, NOAA staff, and other interested parties. If you have any questions regarding the documents below please contact

EMS Contract Information

For more information on the electronic monitoring contract statement of work (contract objectives, scope, and outcomes) for the Fisheries Sampling Branch, please see the Request for Proposals (RFP) that was used to solicit and award the contract.

Regional Perspective on EMS

To forward the agency's understanding and adoption of electronic monitoring, the National Marine Fisheries Service Leadership Council identified six topic areas needing further exploration. These areas of interest need to be evaluated to produce national guidance and recommendations on the goal of creating a more cost-effective and sustainable monitoring program for US fisheries. In February of 2013, NMFS released a series of six white papers on electronic monitoring to promote discussion and development of a more strategic approach to monitoring in NMFS fisheries. The papers include the following topics; Existing Technologies, Alignment of Objectives, Enforcement, Confidentiality Concerns, Research and Development, and Funding.

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(File Modified Apr. 16 2014)