Gulf Seafood Institute Applauds Congressional Passage of $2 Million for Electronic Data Collection in Gulf

by / Newsroom Ink on December 17, 2014
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The National Marine Fisheries Service budget will include funding to be used for an electronic data collection program for the federally-permitted charter boat fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Intimidator Charters

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood Institute

Accurate and real time data collection of Gulf fisheries based on electronic monitoring took a major step forward with the enactment of the Congressional 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Act that included $2 million for electronic data collection for the Gulf recreational charter-for-hire sector.

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“This program has broad support from the charter-for-hire, seafood, conservation, and regulatory communities across all five Gulf States and is ready to roll out immediately once funding is made available,” said Margaret Henderson, executive director of GSI. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Efforts started in January of 2014, when members of the Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) and the Gulf charter-for-hire community met with congressional leaders from Gulf Coast during a weeklong visit encouraging them to consider properly funding the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) budget to be used for an electronic data collection program for the federally-permitted charter boat fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

GSI received strong support across party lines on both sides of the Hill for this program. From the outset members of the Gulf Congressional Delegation continued to assure GSI every step of the way that they would make this program a top priority.

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“It simply makes sense to use modern technology to obtain more accurate assessments of our fisheries,” said Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran. “I appreciate the leadership shown by the Gulf Seafood Institute in advocating for the use of electronic data collection methods.” Photo: U.S. Senate

“This program has broad support from the charter-for-hire, seafood, conservation, and regulatory communities across all five Gulf States and is ready to roll out immediately once funding is made available,” said Margaret Henderson, executive director of GSI. “It is great to see Congress move forward on this important effort so the Gulf’s charter fleet can start to accurately count catch in 2015.”

The FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Act funding covers two priorities: funding the charter-for-hire fleet to purchase the electronic data collection instruments, as well as providing the NMFS with the funding to implement a program to process the information and convert it into landings and estimates data.

“It simply makes sense to use modern technology to obtain more accurate assessments of our fisheries.  Better data will allow policymakers, as well as those who rely on and enjoy Gulf fishing, to make better decisions about the management and conservation of fishery resources,” Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran said.   “I appreciate the leadership shown by the Gulf Seafood Institute in advocating for the use of electronic data collection methods.

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“I am pleased that the omnibus appropriations bill includes $2 million in funding for electronic data collection, which improves catch data from recreational fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Alabama Senator Richard Shelby. Photo: U.S. Senate

Verifiable, timely and enforceable fisheries data are necessary to make proper management decisions that will protect the longevity of marine ecosystems while keeping up with demand from fishermen and the broader seafood supply chain. Data-poor fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico have left resource managers ill-equipped to make fair management decisions that accurately reflect the needs of fisheries and fishing communities. Methods to independently verify self-reported fisheries data have been needed to certify a true and accurate accounting of catch and effort.

“This new overall program will give fishery managers much more accurate information on which to base future management decisions,” said GSI’s president Harlon Pearce. “It is important to recognize the hard work of all Gulf State legislators on Capitol Hill and their staffs that made this possible.”

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council recently approved a measure granting the federally-permitted charter boat community in the Gulf their own separate fishery component, with a focus on electronic reporting for these vessels. The Council also directed staff at the Southeast Fishery Science Center to develop a framework action to establish electronic reporting or other approved methods within charter fishery.

“I am pleased that the omnibus appropriations bill includes $2 million in funding for electronic data collection, which improves catch data from recreational fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and other parts of the country,” said Alabama Senator Richard Shelby.  “This funding is critical in order to bring fishery data collection into the 21st century through real time electronic monitoring.”

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“I would also like to thank all members of Congress that have made this possible,” said Captain Johnny Greene, a charter-for-hire captain and GSI member. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

According to Michael Kelly, vice president of sustainable marine resources for GSI “founding member” CLS America, new electronic data collection technology that CLS America  and others offer has built-in quality control features that can be accessed from a smart phone application. “Fishermen can quickly and accurately report their catch to a secure database administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Installation is straightforward, the technology is ready to roll out and vessel owners are ready,” he said.

“I want to thank the fishermen, stakeholders and the vast majority of charter-for-hire vessel owners in the Gulf that have come out in support of employing new technology making accountable, verifiable electronic monitoring for the charter-for-hire community in the Gulf a reality,” said Captain Johnny Greene of Intimidator Charters in Orange Beach, AL and GSI board member. “I would also like to especially thank all members of Congress that have made this possible, especially Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.”

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About the Author

About the Author: Ed Lallo is the former editor of Gulf Seafood News and CEO of Newsroom Ink, an online brand journalism agency. .

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  1. eric@flcharterfish.com says:

    I would like to thanks GSI and all the people who worked hard on getting the funding for data collection for the for hire fleet in the Gulf. Your work has not gone unnoticed. I look forward to working with you in the future. I am a charter fisherman in the gulf. GSI has shown its willingness to help our indusrty and if anything we can do to help please let me know. Thanks again.

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