IB 20-29: Notification on Waiver of Observer Coverage Requirements in the Partial Coverage Category

March 27, 2020 - 9:00 a.m.

Notice of fishery management action regarding fishery observers in the Alaska region.

As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and consistent with the authority provided under the Emergency Rule signed on March 24, 2020, NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region is temporarily waiving the requirement for vessels in the Partial Coverage Category to carry a fishery observer according to James W. Balsiger, Administrator, Alaska Region. The waiver will be in effect beginning on March 26, 2020 through April 9, 2020 and future extensions of this waiver will be evaluated by NOAA Fisheries weekly.

NOAA Fisheries is granting this limited duration waiver for observer coverage on vessels in the partial coverage fleet based on the following factors:

  • Limitations on available air travel in Alaska, particularly in many remote Alaskan communities may further limit travel due to increasing concern about the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Absence of State of Alaska Marine Highway System service providing alternative travel methods among certain ports within Alaska
  • The increasing possibility of additional limitations on travel throughout the State of Alaska, including local “shelter in place” restrictions which request self-quarantine practices for anyone traveling into remote communities. These additional limitations could limit the ability of observers to be able to fulfill their mission critical work; and
  • An ongoing need to be able to conserve our limited observer capacity to be able to provide ongoing coverage capability for other vessels and processing facilities that are participating in the full coverage category.

We are taking this action to protect public health and to ensure the safety of fishermen and observers, while maintaining an ongoing supply of fish to markets.

During the waiver period, NOAA will monitor fishing effort, catch data, and other relevant information to ensure that there are no significant adverse environmental consequences and consider alternative fishery management measures should such consequences arise.

We will continue to fulfill our mission, maintaining our nation's seafood supply and protecting marine life, while ensuring the health and safety of our employees, partners, and broader fishing community during this crisis.

If you have specific questions please contact either Glenn Merrill (glenn.merrill@noaa.gov) concerning regulatory matters, or Jennifer Ferdinand (jennifer.ferdinand@noaa.gov) concerning observer operations.