Fair is fair: Everyone should get a monitor

Effective fisheries management requires cooperation between managers and fishermen. Cooperation involves a certain amount of trust. Managers must be able trust that data being provided by fishermen is correct, and fishermen must trust that managers are analyzing those data properly. It is a two-way street.

The councils and NMFS appear not to trust fishermen when they propose requiring vessel monitoring systems and electronic video monitoring to be installed on commercial fishing vessels. Basically, they are telling the fishermen we really don’t trust you telling us where you were fishing and what you caught and discarded, so we are putting an ankle monitor on you and will have a video camera watching your every move.

I get the fish are a public resource deal — those harvesting a public resource need to do it in an acceptable manner, and accurate data are required to manage the resource properly argument. Likewise, tax dollars are a public resource of sorts and should be monitored and managed properly. If NMFS and the councils really want to start down the path of distrust, then fishermen may want to consider doing the same. After all, we have a right to know how our tax dollars are being spent, and it is tax dollars that pay the salaries of NMFS staff and council members.

So, I am proposing that all NMFS personnel and council members wear a radio collar — similar to what wildlife biologists use on bears, wolves, etc., so we know where they are 24 hours a day, just like a VMS does on a commercial fishing vessel. Let’s call the radio collar something nice, like a Federal Employee Monitoring System. I know the radio collars will be a little awkward at first, but so is a VMS unit on a small open outboard vessel fishing the southern Gulf of Mexico with a reef fish permit, but it is required.

The FEMS, like the VMS, will only tell the fisherman/taxpayer the location of the federal employee and not what they are actually doing. In addition, I propose video cameras be set up in the workplace and call it something cool, like an employee monitoring device. We need to make certain that all rules are being adhered to: e.g., coffee and lunch breaks not exceeding time allowed, stock assessments being worked on rather than computer games being played, employees not cutting out of work early. Basically, we want to make sure our tax dollars are being managed and spent in a sustainable manner, as we do with fisheries. Just as a fisherman must request a power-down exemption to turn off a VMS unit, the federal fisheries employees must also request a power-down exemption to turn off and remove the FEMS unit. Acceptable reasons will include such activities as major surgery, going through an MRI, X-rays. Otherwise, the FEMS must be worn and transmitting 24 hours a day, just like the VMS on a commercial fishing vessel.

Seriously folks, we all agree that fisheries need to be monitored and managed properly in order to be sustainable for generations to come. But some of the methods being proposed, like VMS or EM on small open fishing vessels may be going a little bit too far.

Don DeMaria

Summerland Key, Fla.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of National Fisherman and its owners.

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  • TK

    Interesting thought.
    May I suggest that the radio collar also collect all electronic information the FEMS collect, along with video copy of all written information.

    That way, ship’s owners can match data and time of data to ship board activities. It might help improve the accuracy of NOAA/councils/NMS data collection.

    It might be nice that commercial and recreational fisherpersons receive similar copies of raw data collected by NOAA vessels and fish hauls. Of course, the NOAA/councils/NMS employees will dutifully wear their FEMS collars.

    Don’t forget to make the FEMS collars fluorescent pink; to aid ease of rescue if occasion ever rises.

  • John Dapper

    Great story! Maybe we could include other agencies that pass unhelpful rules. The EPA and OSHA could benefit seeing how it is in the real world.

  • Bill Allen

    I like the idea of a shock collar too.

  • angry aussie

    Yeah sorry fellas, I believe these stupid ideas were first put in place by rabid green bureaucrats from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, and then found there way around the world!.
    Don you make reference to “accurate data are required to manage the resource properly argument” have you ever considered how this can, or even whether it should be done? Is this data being collected for the “right” reason? We found here that our most productive fishing grounds as identified by VMS all of a sudden became candidates for marine parks and closed areas! Do you believe that the managers and scientists are genuinely smart enough to pull it off or are they in reality accessories to squandering the resource?
    In the EU which is far more regulated, and allegedly researched, than either the US or Australia it is estimated that the discards in the North Sea alone are of the order of a million tons a year! Yes that figure is correct!
    And yes, crew being crew we have had several cases of fishermen mooning the bureaucrats on camera!

  • Joel Hovanesian

    De-fund NMFS and start over. Government agencies only do one thing well. Expand the size and scope of their agency and waste taxpayer dollars.

  • John Enns

    These “most productive fishing grounds” are essentially highly productive nurseries. The first few times local governments tried to establish these sites as protected areas there was a lot of resistance from the local commercial fishing industry but after a few seasons of these areas being allowed to function without the stress of being actively harvested most people admitted that the fishing was better than they could remember it ever being.

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