Alaska At-Sea Scales Program - Federal Register Rules and Notices
NOAA Fisheries issues regulations to revise the at-sea scales program for catcher/processor vessels (C/Ps) and motherships that are required to weigh catch at sea. This action makes three major changes to current regulations. First, this action requires enhancements of daily scale testing for flow scales used to weigh catch at sea and requires electronic reporting of the daily flow scale test results. Second, this action requires that vessels required to use flow scales to weigh catch have electronics capable of logging and printing the frequency and magnitude of scale calibrations, as well as the time and date of each scale fault (or error) and scale startup. Third, this action requires that vessels use video to monitor the flow scale and the area around the flow scale. In addition, this action revises minor technical regulations related to equipment and operation regulations and removes certain regulations that are no longer applicable; and improves the accuracy of catch estimation by the C/Ps and motherships using at-sea scales and reduces the possibility of scale tampering.
The use of at-sea scales can provide precise and accurate groundfish catch estimates. At-sea scales are now used to account for the vast majority of catch by C/Ps and motherships fishing off Alaska. The at-sea scales program was developed in the mid-1990s to provide catch accounting methods for vessels, specifically C/Ps, that were more precise and verifiable and less dependent on estimates generated by at-sea observers. Improved catch estimation was necessary because of the implementation of large-scale catch share programs. Catch share programs require NMFS to provide verifiable and precise estimates of quota harvest. Because catch share programs limit vessel operators to specific amounts of catch, vessel operators may have an incentive to underreport catch and then fish beyond specific catch limits. A method for independently verifying catch, such as a requirement to weigh catch on a scale, reduces the vessel operator's ability to underreport catch.