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At-sea observers and electronic monitoring

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Why do I have to pay to have an observer on my vessel?

Those who benefit from the use of the resource should assist in paying for the management of the resource. In 2005, the Department announced that the full costs of this program would transition to become the responsibility of industry.

This change will provide industry with greater control over the operational elements of the program.

What is the cost of the groundfish electronic monitoring system used in the Pacific Region?

Costs vary among vessels, depending on a number of factors such as the vessel, the number of sea-days fished, and characteristics of the fishing trips (e.g., trip length and frequency).

Should we be preparing to pay more for at-sea observer or groundfish electronic monitoring services?

The (former) Government of Canada contracts for at-sea observer services expired March 31, 2013. The fishing industry now may negotiate fees for service independently with any DFO designated at-sea observer corporation, as well as with providers of electronic monitoring services.

Why does industry have to pay for at-sea observers when it’s really the Department that wants at-sea observer data for Science purposes?

As the fishing industry takes greater responsibility for conservation and stewardship of the resource, it will also need to assume a greater share of the management costs. This includes the costs associated with fisheries monitoring programs, such as carrying at-sea observers aboard fishing vessels.

How much will the Department save by not paying any of the costs for the At-Sea Observer Program or the groundfish electronic monitoring programs?

The Department will no longer be co-funding the direct costs of at-sea monitoring program operations. However, for the At-Sea Observer Program, we will be funding the development and ongoing audit and monitoring associated with implementation and oversight of the new program.


Why do we need at-sea observers when there are other controls on the vessel?

At-sea observers are required as a condition of licence, along with other monitoring programs, for the effective management and control of fisheries. At-sea observers provide the only method of on-board observation of fishing activity and augment the scientific stock assessment catch data. In some major fisheries, the at-sea observer data is the primary source of scientific sampling information.

How will fishermen get their licenses when the Department needs to know that at-sea observers have been paid first?

As per current practice, at sea-observer requirements will continue to be included in licence conditions, and compliance with the requirement will continue to be enforced by Conservation and Protection officers.

How will we achieve the percent of coverage required if at-sea observers have to be co-ordinated across regions?

Fisheries and Oceans Canada continue to oversee and manage target observer deployment coverage levels for each fishery.

What process is in place to ensure the Department can verify if a fisherman has a contract with an observer company or a vessel monitoring system installed?

As is practiced today, fish harvesters must provide a written certification to Fisheries and Oceans Canada that arrangements have been made with a designated observer company to carry at-sea observers on their vessels. The verification process for vessel monitoring systems involves regular monitoring of active fish harvesters in any fishery that requires a vessel monitoring system as a licence condition.

New process

How will contracts with at-sea observer service providers now work?

Industry will now enter into direct contracts with Fisheries and Oceans Canada-designated at-sea observer service providers. By assuming greater control over the contract process, industry will be able to negotiate the fees for this service without government involvement.

If the Department is no longer paying for at-sea observers, why can’t industry choose any provider it wants?

Fisheries and Oceans Canada will still be responsible for standard setting and designation of at-sea observer service providers. Industry will be able to choose their at-sea observer services from a list of designated providers.

Are there more observer companies available to industry? Is there a list available of these companies? Are they approved by the Department?

As of April 1, 2014 there are four corporations designated by DFO available to provide service in any DFO Region. These corporations are: Seawatch Inc. (St. John’s, NL), Biorex Inc. (Ste. Foy, PQ), Javitech Ltd. (Halifax, NS) and Archipelago Marine Research Ltd. (Victoria, BC).

As additional corporations (may) become designated, this information will be posted on the web site.

In the past, there was only one observer company available to provide service per DFO Region under exclusive contract(s) with the Government of Canada to serve a particular region for a given period of time. These contracts terminated on March 31, 2013. The current (2014) policy is that any DFO designated company may now offer observer services to the fishing industry in any DFO Region.

Can fishers go to suppliers from outside the province to hire observers?

Fish harvesters may use the services of any supplier (company) that is designated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to operate in any DFO Region.

How will billing work with the new arrangement?

Billing should be determined during industry negotiations with designated service providers. Payment arrangements are a separate matter which is a business arrangement between the fish harvesters (or association) and the observer company.

Will at-sea observers travel to the fisherman’s location or will industry still have to pick them up?

At-sea observers are typically deployed from the wharf where the vessel sails.

How will the Department maintain authority over at-sea observers?

Once a corporation receives certification from the Canadian General Standards Board to provide at-sea observer services, they must apply to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to become a designated at-sea service provider under the Fishery (General) Regulations. This application is made in the form of a business plan which outlines a number of responsibilities and capabilities to which the service provider must adhere. This includes certifications of financial viability, security, and insurance requirements, as well as arm’s-length operating requirements.

Both the Canadian General Standards Board and Fisheries and Oceans Canada will maintain regular and ongoing audits of the corporation’s performance and programs operations.

Will this change negatively impact current at-sea observer companies or individuals currently employed as at-sea observers?

It is not possible to predict the impact on existing observer companies or individual observers. Much will depend on how the companies and the fishing industry come to arrangements for service under the new delivery system.

Will the changes to the At-Sea Observer Program result in job losses?

It is not possible to predict the impact on existing observer companies or individual observers. Much will depend on how the companies and the fishing industry come to arrangements for service under the new delivery system.

What are the major changes in the 2014 corporation designation policy as compared to the former (2013) policy ?

The major differences include the ability for a corporation originally designated in any FOC Region to operate in any other region and any fishery. The previous (2013) policy required the corporation to apply and receive designations on a region by region basis only, and required the corporation to service all fisheries in the region of designation. Changes made in the 2014 designation policy are designed to allow corporations greater flexibility to operate in the region and fishery of their choice, based on an initial designation in any FOC Region. This will also allow greater flexibility for the fishing industry to select any designated service provider on a national basis. In addition, the requirements for demonstration of financial viability and arm’s length operations have been clarified; and the conditions for revocation of designation have been simplified and harmonized with the Fishery (General) Regulations.

Science/data collection

Will the changes to the At-Sea Observer Program negatively impact the quality and capacity of the science?

The same data collection and quality control standards will remain in place under the new program delivery system.

How will observers submit data to Conservation and Protection if they are funded 100% by industry?

As per current practice, observer data will be collected and submitted by the at-sea observer to the company’s data managers for computer entry and quality control. This information is then sent to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Has the Department considered alternatives to getting the data required for Science; perhaps ones that would result in a lower cost to industry?

The At-Sea Observer Program is more than a scientific data collection program. It provides data for ongoing fisheries management purposes, such as the opening and closing of fisheries on a real-time basis. It monitors fishing activity on board the vessel and reports suspected irregularities. The program also provides biological sampling and data collection that is used for longer-term stock assessment purposes.

Certification standards

What are the certification standards of companies that offer the program?

The Canadian General Standards Board will certify corporations by reviewing a corporation’s application against the criteria contained in their Certification Manual. This manual will be available in December. The Department’s designation requirements are outlined on the at-sea observer and electronic monitoring landing page.

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