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Potential Groundfish Sector Monitoring Providers - Sector at-sea monitoring provider applications for fishing year 2018 are due October 1, 2017

Contact:
Sustainable  Fisheries Division
(978) 281 –9315
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 14, 2017

If you would like to be approved to provide at-sea monitoring services to sectors in fishing year 2018 (May 1, 2018, through April 30, 2019), you must submit an application by October 1, 2017.  Applications must include a cover letter, as well as the information and statements identified in the regulations. 

Last year we transitioned from an annual approval process to biennial approval, with several companies already approved for fishing years 2017 and 2018.  At the time, we stated there would be a subsequent opportunity to apply to provide services only in fishing year 2018.  Companies already approved to provide at-sea monitoring services in fishing years 2017 and 2018 do not need to apply again in order to provide services in 2018.  Applications received under this announcement will be reviewed, and provider approvals will cover only fishing year 2018 (May 1, 2018, through April 30, 2019).  There will be a future opportunity to apply for two-year approval to provide services for fishing years 2019 and 2020. 

We will review all applications in accordance with the monitoring provider standards [50 CFR 648.87(b)(4)].  For currently operating at-sea monitoring providers, our review will also include an evaluation of your past performance in comparison to the at-sea monitoring operational standards [§ 648.87(b)(5)], to determine whether to approve your company for fishing year 2018.  Please review the attached regulations carefully, particularly the requirements for signed statements.  To help fulfill the requirement to submit evidence of adequate insurance, we are providing a Verification of Insurance Coverage of At-Sea Monitors form to include in your application package. 

Decisions will be published in the Federal Register this fall. 

Please submit the requested documents by October 1, 2017, to:

National Marine Fisheries Service
Sustainable Fisheries Division
Attn: Liz Sullivan
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930


Excerpt from the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Regulations                           

50 CFR 648.87(b)(4)

 (4) Independent third-party monitoring provider standards. Any service provider intending to provide at-sea/electronic monitoring services described in paragraph (b)(1)(v) of this section must apply to and be approved/certified by NMFS in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. NMFS shall approve/certify service providers and/or at-sea monitors as eligible to provide sector monitoring services specified in this part and can disapprove/decertify service providers and/or individual monitors through notice in writing to individual service providers/monitors if the following criteria are no longer being met:

(i) Service provider information. As part of the application for service provider approval/certification, potential service providers must include at least the following information:

(A) Identification of corporate structure, including the names and duties of controlling interests in the company such as owners, board members, authorized agents, and staff; and articles of incorporation, or a partnership agreement, as appropriate;

(B) Contact information for official correspondence and communication with any other office;

(C) A statement, signed under penalty of perjury, from each owner, board member, and officer that they are free from a conflict of interest with fishing-related parties including, but not limited to, vessels, dealers, shipping companies, sectors, sector managers, advocacy groups, or research institutions and will not accept, directly or indirectly, any gratuity, gift, favor, entertainment, loan, or anything of monetary value from such parties;

(D) A statement, signed under penalty of perjury, from each owner, board member, and officer describing any criminal convictions, Federal contracts they have had, and the performance rating they received on the contract, and previous decertification action while working as an observer or observer service provider;

(E) A description of any prior experience the applicant may have in placing individuals in remote field and/or marine work environments including, but not limited to, recruiting, hiring, deployment, and personnel administration;

(F) A description of the applicant's ability to carry out the responsibilities and duties of a sector monitoring/reporting service provider and the arrangements to be used, including whether the service provider is able to offer at-sea monitoring services;

(G) Evidence of adequate insurance (copies of which shall be provided to the vessel owner, operator, or vessel manager, when requested) to cover injury, liability, and accidental death to cover at-sea monitors (including during training); vessel owner; and service provider. NMFS will determine the adequate level of insurance and notify potential service providers;

(H) Proof of benefits and personnel services provided in accordance with the terms of each monitor's contract or employment status;

(I) Proof that the service provider's at-sea monitors have passed an adequate training course sponsored by the service providers to the extent not funded by NMFS that is consistent with the curriculum used in the current yearly NEFOP training course, unless otherwise specified by NMFS;

(J) An Emergency Action Plan describing the provider's response to an emergency with an at-sea monitor, including, but not limited to, personal injury, death, harassment, or intimidation; and

(K) Evidence that the company is in good financial standing;

(ii) Service provider performance requirements. At-sea monitoring service providers must be able to document compliance with the following criteria and requirements:

(A) A service provider must establish and carry out a comprehensive plan to deploy NMFS-certified at-sea monitors, or other at-sea monitoring mechanism, such as electronic monitoring equipment that is approved by NMFS, according to a prescribed coverage level (or level of precision for catch estimation), as specified by NMFS, including all of the necessary vessel reporting/notice requirements to facilitate such deployment, as follows:

(1) A service provider must be available to industry 24 hr per day, 7 days per week, with the telephone system monitored a minimum of four times daily to ensure rapid response to industry requests;

(2) A service provider must be able to deploy at-sea monitors, or other approved at-sea monitoring mechanism to all ports in which service is required by sectors, or a subset of ports as part of a contract with a particular sector;

(3) A service provider must report at-sea monitors and other approved at-sea monitoring mechanism deployments to NMFS and the sector manager in a timely manner to determine whether the predetermined coverage levels are being achieved for the appropriate sector;

(4) A service provider must assign at-sea monitors and other approved at-sea monitoring mechanisms without regard to any preference by the sector manager or representatives of vessels other than when the service is needed and the availability of approved/certified monitors and other at-sea monitoring mechanisms;

(5) A service provider's at-sea monitor assignment must be fair, equitable, representative of fishing activities within each sector, and able to monitor fishing activity throughout the fishing year;

(6) For service providers offering catch estimation or at-sea monitoring services, a service provider must be able to determine an estimate of discards for each trip and provide such information to the sector manager and NMFS, as appropriate and as required by this section;

(B) The service provider must ensure that at-sea monitors remain available to NMFS, including NMFS Office for Law Enforcement, for debriefing for at least 2 weeks following any monitored trip/offload;

(C) The service provider must report possible at-sea monitor harassment; discrimination; concerns about vessel safety or marine casualty; injury; and any information, allegations, or reports regarding at-sea monitor conflict of interest or breach of the standards of behavior to NMFS and/or the sector manager, as specified by NMFS;

(D) The service provider must submit to NMFS, if requested, a copy of each signed and valid contract (including all attachments, appendices, addendums, and exhibits incorporated into the contract) between the service provider and those entities requiring services (i.e., sectors and participating vessels) and between the service provider and specific dockside, roving, or at-sea monitors;

(E) The service provider must submit to NMFS, if requested, copies of any information developed and used by the service providers distributed to vessels, such as informational pamphlets, payment notification, description of duties, etc.;

(F) A service provider may refuse to deploy an at-sea monitor or other approved at-sea monitoring mechanism on a requesting fishing vessel for any reason including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) If the service provider does not have an available at-sea monitor or other at-sea monitoring mechanism approved by NMFS within the advanced notice requirements established by the service provider;

(2) If the service provider is not given adequate notice of vessel departure or landing from the sector manager or participating vessels, as specified by the service provider;

(3) For the purposes of at-sea monitoring, if the service provider has determined that the requesting vessel is inadequate or unsafe pursuant to the reasons described in §600.746; and

(4) Failure to pay for previous deployments of at-sea monitors, or other approved at-sea monitoring mechanism.

(G) With the exception of a service provider offering reporting, dockside, and/or at-sea monitoring services to participants of another fishery managed under Federal regulations, a service provider must not have a direct or indirect interest in a fishery managed under Federal regulations, including, but not limited to, fishing vessels, dealers, shipping companies, sectors, sector managers, advocacy groups, or research institutions and may not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gratuity, gift, favor, entertainment, loan, or anything of monetary value from anyone who conducts fishing or fishing-related activities that are regulated by NMFS, or who has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the official duties of service providers;

(H) A system to record, retain, and distribute the following information to NMFS, as requested, for a period specified by NMFS, including:

(1) At-sea monitor and other approved monitoring equipment deployment levels, including the number of refusals and reasons for such refusals;

(2) Incident/non-compliance reports (e.g., failure to offload catch); and

(3) Hail reports, landings records, and other associated interactions with vessels and dealers.

(I) A means to protect the confidentiality and privacy of data submitted by vessels, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act; and

(J) A service provider must be able to supply at-sea monitors with sufficient safety and data-gathering equipment, as specified by NMFS.

(iii) Standards for individual at-sea monitors. For an individual to be approved/certified as an at-sea monitor, the service provider must demonstrate that each potential monitor meets the following criteria:

(A) A high school diploma or legal equivalent;

(B) Successful completion of all NMFS-required training and briefings before deployment;

(C) Physical and mental capacity for carrying out the responsibilities of an at-sea monitor on board fishing vessels, pursuant to standards established by NMFS such as being certified by a physician to be physically fit to work as an at-sea monitor after consideration of at least the following work-related issues:

(1) Susceptibility to chronic motion sickness;

(2) Ability to live in confined quarters;

(3) Ability to tolerate stress;

(4) Ability to lift and carry heavy objects up to 50 lb (22.7 kg);

(5) Ability to drag heavy objects up to 200 lb (90.7 kg); and

(6) Ability to climb a ladder.

(D) A current Red Cross (or equivalent) CPR/first aid certification;

(E) Absence of fisheries-related convictions, based upon a thorough background check; and

(F) Independence from fishing-related parties including, but not limited to, vessels, dealers, shipping companies, sectors, sector managers, advocacy groups, or research institutions to prevent conflicts of interest.


50 CFR 648.87(b)(5)

 (5) At-sea/electronic monitoring operational standards. In addition to the independent third-party monitoring provider standards specified in paragraph (b)(4) of this section, any at-sea/electronic monitoring program developed as part of a sector's yearly operations plan pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(v)(B) of this section must meet the following operational standards to be approved by NMFS:

(i) Gear. Each at-sea monitor must be provided with all of the equipment specified by the Northeast Fisheries At-sea Monitoring Program. A list of such equipment is available from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center upon request. At-sea/electronic monitoring service providers are responsible for the cost of providing such gear to at-sea monitors to the extent not funded by NMFS. This gear shall be inspected by NMFS upon the completion of training required pursuant to paragraph (b)(4)(i)(I) of this section.

(ii) Vessel selection protocol. An at-sea/electronic monitoring program service provider must develop a formal vessel-selection protocol to deploy at-sea monitors and electronic monitoring equipment in a statistically random manner consistent with the coverage levels required pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(v)(B)(1) of this section. This protocol must include a method to allow for waivers in specific circumstances, including how waivers would be requested, assessed, and recorded.

(iii) Reporting/recordkeeping requirements—(A) Vessel requirements. In addition to all other reporting/recordkeeping requirements specified in this part, to facilitate the deployment of at-sea monitors and electronic monitoring equipment pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(v)(B)(1) of this section, the operator of a vessel fishing on a sector trip must provide at-sea/electronic monitoring service providers with at least the following information: The vessel name, permit number, trip ID number in the form of the VTR serial number of the first VTR page for that trip or another trip identifier specified by NMFS, whether a monkfish DAS will be used, and an estimate of the date/time of departure in advance of each trip. The timing of such notice shall be sufficient to allow ample time for the service provider to determine whether an at-sea monitor or electronic monitoring equipment will be deployed on each trip and allow the at-sea monitor or electronic monitoring equipment to prepare for the trip and get to port, or to be installed on the vessel, respectively. The details of the timing, method (e.g., phone, email, etc.), and information needed for such pre-trip notifications shall be included as part of a sector's yearly operations plan. If a vessel has been informed by a service provider that an at-sea monitor or electronic monitoring equipment has been assigned to a particular trip pursuant to paragraph (b)(5)(iii)(B)(1) of this section, the vessel may not leave port to begin that trip until the at-sea monitor has arrived and boarded the vessel, or the electronic monitoring equipment has been properly installed.

(B) At-sea/electronic monitoring service provider requirements—(1) Confirmation of pre-trip notification. Upon receipt of a pre-trip notification pursuant to paragraph (b)(5)(iii)(A) of this section, the service provider shall inform the vessel operator whether the vessel will be monitored by an at-sea observer or electronic monitoring equipment for that trip, or will be issued an at-sea/electronic monitoring waiver for that trip based upon the vessel selection protocol specified in paragraph (b)(5)(ii) of this section.

(2) At-sea/electronic monitoring report. A report detailing area fished and the amount of each species kept and discarded shall be submitted electronically in a standard acceptable form to the appropriate sector and NMFS within 48 hr of the completion of the trip, as instructed by the Regional Administrator. The data elements to be collected and the format for submission shall be specified by NMFS and distributed to all approved at-sea/electronic monitoring service providers and sectors. At-sea/electronic monitoring data shall not be accepted until such data pass automated NMFS data quality checks.

(iv) Safety hazards—(A)Vessel requirements. The operator of a sector vessel must detail and identify any safety hazards to any at-sea monitor assigned pursuant to paragraph (b)(5)(iii)(B)(1) of this section prior to leaving port. A vessel cannot begin a trip if it has failed a review of safety issues pursuant to paragraph (b)(5)(iv)(B) of this section, until the identified safety deficiency has been resolved, pursuant to §600.746(i).

(B) At-sea/electronic monitoring service provider requirements. An at-sea monitor must complete a pre-trip vessel safety checklist provided by NMFS before an at-sea monitor can leave port onboard a vessel on a sector trip. If the vessel fails a review of safety issues pursuant to this paragraph (b)(5)(iv)(B), an at-sea monitor cannot be deployed on that vessel for that trip.

(v) Adjustment to operational standards. The at-sea/electronic monitoring operational standards specified in paragraph (b)(5) of this section may be revised by the Regional Administrator in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act.


Verification of Insurance Coverage of At-Sea Monitors

I declare, as the legal representative of [company name], under penalty of perjury, under the laws of the United States of America, that all at-sea monitors provided by [company name] pursuant to any and all contracts that exist between [company name] and any sector will be covered by the type and level of insurance as required by applicable federal regulations and any other guidance provided by National Marine Fisheries Service. I further declare that this insurance covers at-sea monitors during all aspects of deployment on fishing trips including training and travel to fishing vessels.    

____________________    __________________________________

   Print Full Name                                                             Signature

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   Print Company Name                                                    Date

For small entity compliance guides, this bulletin complies with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act of 1996.  This notice is authorized by the Regional Administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Greater Atlantic Region.