Partial Coverage Observer Program - Failed, Costly and Biased
continued from previous post
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) currently administers two partial observer programs. One program is for bottom fishing trawlers and the other program is for fishing vessels delivering to shoreside processors or their tenders.
The owners of the fishing vessels and our members (crew and skippers) are forced to pay the bulk of the $3.8 million annually collected for the partial coverage observer program that effectively provides observer coverage for less than 10% of program’s coverage mandate.
The Halibut and Sablefish fishermen cover about 70% of this cost through a delivery fee of 1.25% of ex vessel landings. As a special consideration only extending to bottom fishing trawlers, their vessels that deliver to fishing tenders are allowed them never to take aboard a fishing observer as long as they make continuous deliveries to a tender.
We were recently informed that our contribution to this failed and highly suspect partial coverage observer program is likely to be increased by 60% from a gross stock expense to of 1.25% to 2% (see related post) by a trawl-centric Council as it misguidedly seeks to throw more working Halibut and Sablefish fishermen money at a failed program while the large, well healed and hard on the ocean bottom trawl companies are aided and allowed to shirk their responsibility at a sustainable fishery.
The Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union and the Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association remains convinced that the Council and certain elements of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is unwilling to make the programmatic changes necessary for a robust partial observer program and merely wants to implement an expensive and one-sided increase in the landing fee to more that $1400 per observer day.
Despite our bleak assessment of the shoddy and un-business-like approach that the Council and NMFS is taking in this matter, we offer up the following alternatives to saddling us with the cost of a failed partial observer program our doing away with the program entirely and starting over.
Council Leadership on the Matter
At long last, the Council could acknowledge and support the notion that the partial observer program could conveinvabley be appropriately managed and funded as many other U.S and foreign fisheries are able to.
Robert Alverson from the Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association has been advocating through his involvement on the Council’s Observer Committee for a business process improvement where all partial observer coverage program participants irrespective of having previously employed the “Tendering Loophole” and in keeping with the current observer dispatch protocol (the ODDS process for picking when a vessel takes an observer) would be required to take an observer that would be procured through one of the various observer companies at a daily rate of half the $1400 per observer day.
All boats would then bill directly to the NMFS program for reimbursement. Participants in the revised billing schema would already be familiar with the concept and initially the participants would include:
1. All boats over 60 feet;
2. All Pollock vessels;
3. All members of FVOA;
4. All non-Pollock trawlers;
5. Halibut catcher vessels between 35 and 60 feet in length
This exercise would help establish the cost per observer day through appropriate market involvement and push back against the non-business minded and inexperienced state and federal bureaucrats who because of their hubris and lack of public sector experience dain to foist off on fishing stakeholder groups a hugely ineffectual and disproportionately expensive failed partial observer program.
Learn to better manage the program and better serve the fishing stakeholder
We believe that the market per observer day should settle out closer to $575 versus the $1400 per observer day as some of our public servants at NMFS have thought incorrectly should be paid by fishermen.
We call on the public agencies that administer the partial observer program to resist the weak temptation to spend other people’s money inappropriately on a struggling and deficient program and should instead embrace good management and market based and fiscally responsible system for those fishermen stakeholders they serve.