US fishing crews do not enjoy having federally mandated observers on board, and are pushing to have them replaced with cameras, an article by the Wall Street Journal has suggested.
As the use of observers has grown in tandem with the government’s use of quotas to prevent overfishing, so has friction between fleets and observers, from Cape Cod to Alaska, said the Journal.
That has led to a push by crews and their advocates to replace human observers with cameras, an option regulators are exploring.
“We don’t want them on the boat. We feel as though they’re out there to kind of shut us down,” said Nick Muto, a captain and the chairman of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance.
Observers, often young biology graduates who work for private companies that contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, say they are well trained and necessary for thwarting illegal overfishing. They earn between $13 and $17 an hour in a job with high turnover.
In Alaska, where this year certain small boats were required for the first time to carry observers, fisherman Dustan Dickerson told regulators at a public meeting that his wife didn’t like him fishing with female observers.
“When you’ve got some 22-year-old hottie on the boat, it’s awkward,” the 52-year-old said in an interview. He said he would prefer cameras.
The NOAA and contractors say there are serious problems on only a small percentage of trips, but they acknowledge that observers face tense situations: New England regulators warned fishermen in an open letter in May not to take their frustrations out on observers.