Under sector management, monitoring fishing activity becomes highly complicated. In order to accurately account for fish that count against a sector’s allocation, managers have to keep track of how many pounds of each fish stock each vessel has caught, landed, and discarded. In addition to weekly catch reporting, sectors are required to participate in at-sea monitoring, which uses onboard human observers to verify each vessel's fishing activity.
Monitoring is essential for ensuring the success of a quota-based management system. Currently, NOAA selects 25% of sector groundfish trips each year to be covered by an on-board observer.
While this traditional approach to monitoring collects fine scale data, it also comes at a high cost. To date, NOAA has covered the expense of this effort and recently pledged to continue funding through the current fishing year. The long term plan, however, is to transition these costs to the fishermen themselves. Some high-tech, cost-effective alternatives to onboard observers have shown promise in other regions, and we are currently helping to evaluate their potential for adoption in New England.