Resumption of the groundfish trawl At-Sea Observer Program (ASOP) has been delayed to allow for refinements of safe-work procedures and preexisting concerns from the Groundfish Trawl Advisory Committee over the Emergency Electronic Monitoring (EM).
ASOP for Option A vessels was suspended April 2 due to COVID-19 health concerns on crowded boats. Following two conditional resumptions of the program, DFO consulted with stakeholders and harvesters to help determine full services could be phased in beginning Sept. 23, with adherence to Provincial Health Authority guidelines.
A new start date has not yet been announced, but DFO is expected to release further information Sept. 30.
“[DFO] will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and take additional actions as may be required,” reads the fisheries notice. “Comprehensive, independent catch monitoring is an essential component of sustainable fishing practices, and DFO remains committed to reinstating the ASOP, as long as it is safe to do so.”
At-sea observers are responsible for the on-board monitoring of fishing activities, collecting scientific data, and monitoring industry compliance with fishing regulations and licence conditions.
In place of the program, the emergency EM pilot program will continue to be in place for all Option A vessels.