Electronic Reporting Mandates Hot Topic Among Councils

Three federal fishery management councils on both US coasts have recently been discussing and acting on electronic logbook-related policies. 

Since 2018, the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils have been deliberating on whether or not all commercial fishermen harvesting species managed by the councils should switch to mandatory electronic vessel trip reports (eVTRs). Charter operators in the Mid-Atlantic region are currently required to submit eVTRs. In December and January, the Mid-Atlantic and New England Councils respectively took final action on mandating eVTRs with a 48-hour reporting deadline after each trip for commercial fishermen. With an implementation timeframe of roughly a year after final ruling, software developers, managers, and fishermen will have time to build, learn and adapt to electronic reporting technologies. Workshops will also be held around the region for users of the software to get acquainted through 2020. 

On the west coast, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council took up discussion at their January/February meeting on the topic of electronic logbooks in the Bering Sea Aleutian Island (BSAI) crab fisheries. Currently, BSAI crab fleets fill out and submit daily fishing logbooks (DFLs) to the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. With the exception of a handful of larger catcher-processor vessels using NOAA eLandings software, no electronic solution is used by the crab fishermen. An e-logbook discussion paper and cost analysis was prepared by council staff and presented at this most recent meeting. After testimony and discussion, the Council decided to table indefinitely further deliberation on building and implementing electronic logbooks for the crab fleet. Instead, the industry itself will continue searching for third party solutions which will not only satisfy reporting requirements but add value to data collection methods employed by fishermen while at sea.