Which would you rather attend: The NOAA Electronic Monitoring West Coast Workshop or the latest blockbuster movie? If you said the movie, you may need to think twice.
An unexpectedly broad spectrum of information, cooperation and an incredible industry dynamic marked the most recent electronic monitoring (EM) workshop in Washington State last week. Similar to the workshop in New Hampshire during the autumn of 2019, this gathering offered NOAA staff, technology service providers, fishermen, NGOs, and other stakeholders the opportunity to spend two days collaborating and discussing issues facing the fishing industry as it slowly adopts new EM technologies. Service providers also set up tables in a vendor area to demonstrate their own EM and electronic reporting (ER) products.
A particularly energetic panel discussion took place during the morning of the second day of the workshop. Several EM service providers took to the stage to share their experiences and projects worldwide as they work with governments, grant programs, and fishermen to deploy EM products. Diverse views were expressed by both the panel and the audience on how EM could provide value to fishermen on top of serving as a compliance tool. The very nature of the technology, the fisheries in need of EM solutions, and the degree to which stakeholders might allow the free market to dictate equilibrium in innovation and costs were hot (though respectfully) contested topics. Both the panel and audience clearly appreciated the dialogue and felt that some overall progress in the discussion had been made.
Several sessions took place daily in the form of presentations and discussion panels. Participants in the audience were able to ask questions of expert panelists. The atmosphere was one of genuine desire to share information and advance further toward solving the many logistical, regulatory, and policy issues facing NOAA staff, technology providers, and fishermen. Session topics included data privacy and ownership, compliance, artificial intelligence, program funding, standards and interoperability, and regional experiences in EM-related initiatives across the US.
The NOAA EM West Coast Workshop proved to be two packed days of networking and collaboration across stakeholder groups, all with an interest in finding ways to deploy cutting-edge technology to ensure a future of sustainable fisheries. After the workshop wrapped up, participants shook hands and scattered to all parts of the country and world to continue working on their own innovative projects in the EM and ER space.