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New Analysis Compares Costs of Electronic Monitoring and At-Sea Observers



Observer measuring versus electronic monitoring system measuring. Credit: NOAA/NEFSC FSB

Earlier this year, NOAA Fisheries issued regional electronic technology implementation plans that lay out our vision for the implementation of this technology in U.S. fisheries. One key element missing from those plans and ongoing Council discussions regarding the use of electronic monitoring was cost information. 

To better inform the Council decision-making process with regard to fishery-dependent data collection, we are issuing two reports comparing the projected costs of two different operational electronic monitoring programs with the costs of more traditional observer/at-sea monitoring programs, as well as an independent review of the groundfish electronic monitoring report. 

The electronic monitoring program costs in both reports are estimated for hypothetical programs, and costs are based on agency spending and cost estimates provided by three electronic monitoring service providers in the fall of 2014.

These reports are a first step to inform our ongoing discussions with the Councils regarding the most cost-effective way to monitor fisheries in the Northeast. We recognize there are many assumptions with the hypothetical programs, and will continue to work with the Councils, industry, NGOs, and other stakeholders to determine what ultimate program design will be most efficient for these two fisheries.

Reports

This report compares the costs of electronic monitoring with the existing at-sea monitoring program required for sectors in the groundfish fishery.The comparison shows that after the initial electronic monitoring implementation costs, the hypothetical electronic monitoring program would cost about twice as much as the current at-sea monitor program annually, though the report emphasizes that the final electronic monitoring program design could reduce the projected costs.

This report compares the costs of electronic monitoring with at-sea observers for monitoring net-slippage events in the midwater trawl herring/mackerel fishery. The comparison shows that, after the initial electronic monitoring implementation costs, the hypothetical electronic monitoring 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 costs—however, the total cost would still be about half as much as an at-sea observer program.

The review endorsed the groundfish report and generally agreed with the approach, methodology, and conclusions. The 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.

Questions?

If you have questions about these reports, please contact Jennifer Goebel at jennifer.goebel@noaa.gov or 978-281-9175.