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Electronic Monitoring

The Fisheries Sampling Branch (FSB) of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) conducted a study in conjunction with Archipelago Marine Research Ltd., to test the applicability of Electronic Monitoring (EM) technology to collect catch and fishing effort data aboard commercial vessels. The goal of the study was to evaluate the utility of EM as a means to monitor catch on a real-time basis in the Northeast groundfish sector fleet. EM data were collected from 2010-2013 and the study concluded in the spring of 2014. Participating vessels were based out of a variety of ports in New England to reflect differences in fishing activity over the geographic range of the groundfish fishery and assess the use of EM data in sector-based management. Data obtained from the EM system were compared to other catch reporting sources such as observer data and vessel trip reports. Results from the study can be used by managers and the industry to determine if EM is a suitable and cost effective alternative.

The Electronic Monitoring System

EM technology used in the EM project comprised 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) received input from the sensors and logged digital video imagery. Cameras began recording when the pressure transducer or drum sensor registered activity (setting gear, retrieval, etc.). Cameras recorded activity on deck with a focus on discarded groundfish species. Cameras were mounted in various locations based on several factors; size of vessel, type of fishery, hauling areas, discard chutes/conveyors/scuppers, stern/aft ramp and catch sorting areas.

EM System Components

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EM System camera (click to enlarge)
  • The EM system used consisted of 2-4 cameras, a control box, a user-interface (monitor), GPS receiver, and two sensors (hydraulic and rotation)
  • Cameras began recording when the sensors were triggered by the drum rotation sensor or hydraulic pressure transducer.
  • Camera views were set up to either focus on the areas of the deck where catch handling occurs (i.e. sorting table, hauling station, checker pen, etc.) or as a general view of the deck to record overall catch handling and discarding activity.
  • Cameras were set up to turn on at the beginning of the first fishing event (i.e. winch or hauler put in gear) and then to either turn off following the fishing event or to record fishing activity for the remainder of the trip. Camera recording settings depended on the fishing gear used, monitoring approach, and program objectives.
  • The system did not record audio.

Electronic Monitoring Study Reports and Outreach Materials

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EM System GPS (click to enlarge)

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 email Nichole Rossi.

Electronic Monitoring Cost Reports

To better inform the Council decision-making process with regard to fishery-dependent data collection, the agency is issuing two reports comparing the projected costs of two different operational EM programs with the costs of more traditional observer/at-sea monitoring programs, as well as an independent review of the groundfish EM report. These reports are a first step to incorporate costs into our ongoing discussions regarding the most cost-effective ways to monitor fisheries.

The first report compares the costs of the existing at-sea monitoring program (ASM) with an electronic monitoring (EM) program for discard monitoring in the Northeast multispecies (groundfish) fishery.  The comparison shows that after the initial electronic monitoring implementation costs, the hypothetical EM program would cost about twice as much as the current ASM program annually, though the report emphasizes that the final EM program design could reduce the projected costs.

A Preliminary Cost Comparison of At-Sea Monitoring and Electronic Monitoring for a Hypothetical Groundfish Sector

The second report compares the costs of an at-sea observer program with an electronic monitoring program for midwater trawl vessels to monitor maximized retention in the Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries. The comparison shows that, after the initial EM implementation costs, the hypothetical EM program would cost about one-third as much as the at-sea observer program annually. The herring/mackerel monitoring program would also include portside catch monitoring, which would increase the total program cost, however, the total cost would still be about half as much as an at-sea observer program.

A Cost Comparison of At-Sea Observers and Electronic Monitoring for a Hypothetical Midwater Trawl Herring/Mackerel Fishery

The independent review endorsed the groundfish report and generally agreed with the approach, methodology, and conclusions. The independent review also provided several recommendations for future cost comparisons and the applicable recommendations were incorporated into the herring/mackerel report. The herring/mackerel report has not been externally reviewed, but it applies the same general methodology and assumptions used in the groundfish report.

Independent Review: A Preliminary Cost Comparison of At-Sea Monitoring and Electronic Monitoring for a Hypothetical Groundfish Sector

Electronic Monitoring Reference Guidebook

The FSB has created an Electronic Monitoring Reference Guidebook which is a compilation of the work conducted during the NEFSC Electronic Monitoring Study (2010-2014). This information was compiled to support and promote broader awareness of EM capabilities, to inform implementation planning activities, and to provide guidance for implementing EM standard applications and best practices. Information included in the reference guidebook is based on the best information available at this time.  As EM continues to develop within the region, the resources presented in the guidebook and information based on the latest technological advances will assist in the development of operational standards.  A listing of the documentation included in the reference guidebook is included below;

  • Electronic Monitoring Outreach Document (fact sheet)
  • NEFSC Electronic Monitoring Study Final Contract Summary
  • Electronic Monitoring System Specifications (draft)
  • 2010 Northeast Multispecies Fishery Electronic Monitoring Pilot Study Phase I Report
  • 2012 Estimating Weight and Identifying Species Through Electronic Monitoring Phase II Report
  • 2014 New England Electronic Monitoring Project Phase III Report
  • Collection of Electronic Monitoring Video Images

Electronic Monitoring 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 Electronic Monitoring

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EM System control box (click to enlarge)

Staff from FSB attended a regional EM workshop and national EM workshop where stakeholders from the Northeast and around the country met to discuss barriers to implementation of EM, costs associated with EM, and updates on progress made locally and around the country. Summary reports are posted on the website of each workshop.

The New England Fishery Management Council has formed the Electronic Monitoring Working Group (EMWG), a committee made up of NMFS staff, fishing industry members, sector managers, and other stakeholders. The EMWG is tasked with identifying barriers and possible solutions to implementing electronic monitoring in groundfish fishery sectors. EMWG updates and information on upcoming meetings can be found at http://nefmc.org/issues/

To increase 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.

Electronic Monitoring Staff Contact Information

Phone Number
Amy Martins FSB Branch Chief 508-495-2266
Nichole Rossi EM Project Lead 508-495-2128
Corey Endres EM Support 508-495-2292
Justin Potter EM Support 508-495-2152
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