NOAA fisheries is in the process of positioning observers at select ports throughout Alaska to meet monitoring objectives for vessels in the Partial Coverage Category of the North Pacific groundfish and Pacific Halibut fisheries. NOAA Fisheries has identified ports in Alaska where current travel and lodging conditions allow observers to meet and maintain applicable health mandates for deployment into the commercial fisheries. These ports include: Akutan, Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, False Pass Homer, Juneau, Ketchikan, King Cove, Kodiak, Nome, Petersburg, Sand Point, Seward, Sitka, and Yakutat.
Consistent with existing regulatory authority at 50 CFR 679.51(a)(1), NOAA fisheries may release trips from observer coverage on a case-by-case basis for vessels in the Partial Coverage Category. NOAA will use this authority when no observers meeting health mandates are available for deployment. NOAA Fisheries may modify the list of ports with available observers in the future in response to transportation availability and/or changes in health mandates. Any revisions to this list of ports will be published through an Alaska Region Information Bulletin.
This notice does not exempt vessels using electronic monitoring, or the requirement that vessels continue to log trips in the Observer Declare and Deploy System (ODDS). Vessel operators will continue to be notified of trip selection, observer availability, and release of trips through the ODDS process.
To the extent possible, NOAA Fisheries will deploy observers to achieve coverage thresholds identified in the 2020 Annual Deployment Plan for the remainder of the year to meet the monitoring objectives established by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries.
NOAA Fisheries will continue to monitor and evaluate this situation. As we have done in other parts of the country, we will work with the observer service provider to implement adjustments to the logistics of deploying observers, ensuring qualified observers are available as soon as safely possible.
Observers and at-sea monitors are an essential component of commercial fishing operations and provide critical information that is necessary to keep fisheries open and to provide sustainable seafood to our nation during this time. We will continue to monitor all local public health notifications, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for updates. We are committed to protecting the public health and ensuring the safety of fishermen, observers, and others, while fulfilling our mission to maintain our nation's seafood supply and conserving marine life.