An example of an electronic monitoring system used on fishing vessels. (Bruce Turris/Submitted photo)

An example of an electronic monitoring system used on fishing vessels. (Bruce Turris/Submitted photo)

DFO implements emergency electronic monitoring program to replace at-sea observers

Pilot program implemented on April 14 in groundfish trawl fishery

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is implementing an electronic monitoring program in the groundfish trawl fishery to replace at-sea observers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an April 14 fishery notice, DFO announced that the Emergency Electronic Monitoring (EM) Pilot Program was being implemented in the groundfish trawl fishery “effective immediately,” on the advice of the Groundfish Trawl Advisory Committee (GTAC).

The EM pilot program will last for the duration of DFO’s April 2 Fishery Management Order suspending the at-sea observer requirement for 45 days to help protect the health of observers and fishers from the spread of the novel coronavirus.

ALSO READ: Fisheries and Oceans Canada lifts at-sea observer requirements due to COVID-19

DFO communications advisor Lauren Girdler told the Observer the EM systems are strategically positioned to provide information on fishing activity, species identification, whether catch was retained or released, and compliance with fishing regulations.

The EM data will be reviewed by the service provider, Archipelago Marine Research, for the purpose of catch accounting and to audit fishery logbooks.

“Comprehensive, independent catch monitoring is an essential component of the groundfish trawl fishery’s management regime,” Girdler said. “In the absence of at-sea observers, EM may fulfill this need for comprehensive, independent catch monitoring on an interim basis.”

She said all monitoring costs associated with the pilot program will be borne by the fishery through contracts with Archipelago.

ALSO READ: Dive charter for Haida Gwaii herring stock assessment cancelled due to COVID-19

Bruce Turris, executive manager of the Canadian Groundfish Research and Conservation Society, told the Observer that GTAC had already been working on a proposal to implement an EM program when they heard the at-sea observer requirement was being lifted.

Following DFO’s Fishery Management Order, GTAC had an emergency conference call on April 7 to complete their proposal, which DFO approved on April 9.

“Having no at-sea monitoring really just wasn’t an option to the industry,” Turris said, adding that monitoring provides important data for fishery management and sustainability, and “keeps everyone playing by the same rules.”

He said EM systems cost between $10,000 and $20,000, not including installation.

“They either purchase it and have it installed or they can rent the system on a daily basis for about $70 a day,” he said. “Yes, there’s a cost to it.”

Since $70 per day “adds up,” he said most operators that he knows of have decided to purchase the system outright.

Having an at-sea observer on board normally costs about $600 per day, he added, so “the costs were there.”

ALSO READ: Protecting Skeena oolichan with potential fishery closures

The EM pilot program also includes other new requirements for groundfish trawl fishers, including new hail procedures and that vessels retain all rockfish catch for validation during offload.

“These requirements have been implemented to improve species identification in the absence of at-sea observers and to ease data management for this interim program,” Girdler said.

EM systems that use cameras, GPS and gear sensors are used in a number of fisheries, she added, including all commercial groundfish fisheries that target halibut, sablefish, lingcod, dogfish, rockfish, hake, and a number of flatfish and cod species.

The systems have been commonly used throughout the commercial groundfish fisheries since 2006.

Commercial groundfish trawl fishers were primarily observed via at-sea observers before COVID-19.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Just Posted

Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley addresses Parliament on June 7, in call for the federal government to stop fighting Indigenous children in court and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action. (Image: supplied from Facebook)
NDP motion calling for immediate reconciliation action passes

Skeena-Bulkley MP Taylor Bachrach addresses federal Parliament

Coho is one of many fish species that will benefit from a project to assess fish passage in the Falls River Watershed and offer options for improved connectivity and habitat restoration. The project will be delivered with funding from the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program announced on June 8. (Photo: supplied by FWCP, istock, M.Haring)
More than $2.1 million for Northcoast fish and wildlife projects

Falls River Watershed SE of Prince Rupert to have fish passage and habitat study

UFAWU-Unifor stated on June 8 that there is no evidence of commercial fishing fleet overfishing for salmon. A salmon being weighed in Prince Rupert during the correct season in 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
UFAWU-Unifor responds to DFO’s Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative

Union states there is no evidence of overfishing in the commercial fleet

Ocean Wise’s cetacean photogrammetry research program uses aerial images collected by boat-launched drones to measure the body condition of whales and assess their health and nutritional status. (Ocean Wise Marine Mammal License MML-18 photo)
LNG Canada commits $750K to Ocean Wise

New three-year initiative expands whale research, conservation and education programs in the north west

Loki, a young bald eagle is seen in recovery after being found hanging from power lines on just her second day of independence, last July. Equipped with a GPS, Loki has made a home in Prince Rupert with Hancock Wildlife Foundation asking for help in photographing her. (Photo: Hancock Wildlife Foundation)
Looking for Loki, the new Prince Rupert local

Hancock Wildlife Foundation is asking the public for help

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read