Smarter Fishing Technology Gets Big Boost from New Government Rule

The use of smarter monitoring systems that use cameras to track what fishermen are hauling onto their vessels just got a big boost thanks to a new National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) rule that allows for technology deployment on a significant portion of the Pacific groundfish fleet.

The new rule, which will take effect in 2021, will have a profound impact on the fleet by lowering costs for fishermen and improving the quality of monitoring, which will, in turn, improve conservation outcomes, said Shems Jud, West Coast Director, EDF Oceans program.

Regulations in the fishery currently require human monitors onboard vessels at all times, which can be costly, inefficient and challenging to obtain in some ports. A number of fishermen have been testing electronic monitoring under a pilot program for the past several years, including one EDF helped to support along with The Nature Conservancy and the California Groundfish Collective, but this regulation will allow the technology to scale beyond the current pilot participants.

“This is an important step towards creating “Smart Boats” that can deploy a variety of technology, including cameras, to bring down costs of monitoring, improve conservation and increase the accuracy of the data generated by fishermen,” Jud said.

Over the past several years, EDF alongside other partners, has worked to improve and expand smart technology systems for fishing vessels across the U.S. to deliver on the promise of what technology can bring. This includes using data in real time to create better conservation outcomes, while at the same time increasing prosperity for fishing communities. As part of that work, EDF recently launched its Smart Boat Initiative at the World Ocean Summit to catalyze action on how technology can be deployed in the service of sustainable fishing.

“This is a major milestone and we congratulate the National Marine Fisheries Service on their forward-looking approach using technology to help solve real-world challenges,” said Melissa Mahoney, Manager Pacific Fisheries Policy, EDF Oceans program. “But the job is far from done. We have amazing opportunities to harness technology in new ways, including through the use of real-time wireless data transmission, artificial intelligence that can detect when fishing is occurring and the use of sensors to tell us more about what’s happening in the ocean. This is an exciting time, and we’re proud to have contributed to the dialogue that led to this much-needed change.”

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