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Begich Welcomes Inspector General’s Audit of Fishing Observer Program

Focus on Electronic Monitoring, Application of New Data Collection Technology

U.S. Senator Mark Begich welcomed announcement of an audit of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) observer program by the Commerce Department’s Inspector General’s office.

Announced Friday, the audit will look at how effectively NMFS has evaluated fishery monitoring options, innovations, and methods, and assess NMFS’ compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies. While the audit is national in scope, the use of electronic monitoring has been a major issue in Alaska and repeatedly raised by Begich.

“Alaska fishermen have been frustrated with the slow pace toward implementing electronic monitoring (EM), especially on the small boat fleet which lack space to accommodate human observers,” Begich said. “I understand there are challenges to apply this new technology but I’ve urged NMFS to speed up their program to implement EM. Everybody has video capability on their cell phones today, surely we can fit it onto the back of a boat.

“Hopefully this audit by the Inspector General’s office will identify areas where we can move forward with this cost-saving technology. Observer data is critically important to better understand catch rates and acquire other biological information for us to better manage our fisheries for long term sustainability but has to include options that work aboard our fleet and do so in a cost effective manner.”

A draft report on the observer program audit by the Inspector General’s office is expected by the end of the year.

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