Paying the observer program tab

According to the Homer (Alaska) News, the council finalized changes http://homernews.com/stories/110310/seawatch_cet.shtml to the observer program for groundfish boats at the October meeting. Among the changes: NMFS will contract directly with observer companies to provide part-time observers for sectors previously not covered such as the halibut longline fleet and groundfish boats under 60 feet.

And as a way of funding the observer coverage, the council will assess a 1.25 percent fee on ex-vessel value of landings in fisheries that must participate in the program.

Paying for observer coverage is a vexing problem in fisheries management. Ideally, if regulators mandate something like observer coverage, they should pay for it.

But the reality is Washington politicians happily call for measures like the observer program to monitor the catch and bycatch but are less enthusiastic about giving NMFS a bigger budget to fund it.

Others say it’s just as well. They believe the industry is better off paying for observer coverage itself. Hey, you want something done right, you do it yourself, right?

Unfortunately, observer coverage isn’t cheap. And it’s another added expense that doesn’t make it any easier for fishermen to stay afloat financially.

Maybe there’s a middle ground where fishermen and NMFS share the program cost in some fashion. Let’s hope so, because the observer program isn’t going away, nor is the funding question.

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