Atlantic sea scallop vessels that qualify for the industry-funded sea scallop observer program will soon have a fourth provider of these services to consider. Beginning August 2, MRAG Americas, Inc. will have certified observers to deploy.
In May 2018, MRAG Americas, Inc. was approved by NOAA Fisheries as a provider company for the program. Adding a fourth provider is one way NOAA Fisheries is working to improve observer availability for selected trips during peak fishing periods.
Getting an Observer
Sea scallop vessels using dredge or trawl gear notify NOAA Fisheries ahead of planned sea scallop trips. Not all trips are selected for coverage. Vessels with selected trips must contact a provider to arrange for an observer, and may not fish without an observer for that trip unless issued a waiver by the agency.
Vessels may choose any provider, and must give providers 48 hours of lead time to assign an observer. A waiver of required coverage will be issued when NOAA Fisheries is contacted by the vessel and confirms that all four certified provider companies were contacted and no observers are available.
A portion of the annual sea scallop quota is set-aside to pay observer providers for these services. NOAA Fisheries covers the costs for monitoring and certifying provider companies, observer training and certification, and data processing and quality control.
What Sea Scallop Observers Do
The industry-funded sea scallop observer program has been an ongoing requirement under the fishery management plan since 2007. Observers collect catch data and measure lengths and take biological samples from priority species. Interactions with marine mammals, sea turtles, and birds are documented and detailed. Information on operating costs, gear, and fishing locations are also obtained. This information informs a variety of research and analyses used to develop and evaluate fishery stock condition, discard rates, and management measures.
List of Companies Providing Observers for the NEFSC
- A.I.S. Inc. (774) 200-1688
- East West Technical Services Inc. (860) 910-4957
- Fathom Research LLC. (508) 990-0997
- MRAG Americas, Inc. (877) 768-7121