Alaska's Congressional Delegation today sent a letter to Dr. Jane Lubchenco -- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator -- making the case that Alaska's waters should receive the funds necessary to improve operations, while similar endeavors are being funded on an ongoing basis in New England and on the West Coast.
"You have made commitments to fund observers in other regions while they transition to catch share programs," wrote the delegation. "We are concerned funding observers in these regions might jeopardize your ability to provide start up funds for the restructured North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program. Meanwhile, the burden imposed on fishermen in Alaska's small boats and 60 --foot to 125-foot vessel fleets would be unwarranted."
In 2010, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) expanded its Groundfish Observer Program to better manage the fisheries and provide more accurate baseline data to inform policy decisions like catch and bycatch estimates. While the direct costs of deploying added fishery observers will be funded by the industry in all subsequent years, $3.8 million in transition costs needed -- similar to support given the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program and the Northeast Multispecies Sector Catch Share Program in the FY12 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill.