West Coast adopts electronic reporting for all commercially caught sablefish

Winter 2017

In 2017, all landings of sablefish on the West Coast will be recorded on web-based “electronic fish tickets.” The new online format will replace or augment long-used paper tickets, making harvest data more quickly available to fishery managers and law enforcement. Therefore, any in-season management actions will be based on more complete harvest data for on-going fisheries.

Sablefish (also marketed as “black cod”) is a high-value commercial species, worth almost $29 million (paid to vessels) in 2015.  Most are caught with fixed gear- pelagic long lines or fish traps on the sea floor. Fishermen often catch most of the available quota, so accurate and timely in-season monitoring and management is needed to make sure the fishery does not exceed annual catch limits.

Collecting the data on paper tickets and compiling the results can sometimes take months. Implementing electronic fish tickets allows real-time access to catch information for fishery managers, law enforcement, and vessel operators.

sablefish on ice in seafood market

Fresh caught sablefish, also known as black cod, sits on ice in a Newport, Oregon fish market. Photo: Alix Smith, NOAA

Sablefish caught in the catch share trawl fishery are already accounted for by electronic fish tickets, which has been both effective and efficient. 

“Electronic fish tickets have proven beneficial in the catch share fishery,” said Gretchen Hanshew, who is leading the transition for NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “The advantages of electronically reporting sablefish catch will become widely apparent to everyone using the information in the coming year, including industry and fishery managers. Also, working closely with our state partners, we are optimistic that 2017 will see additional benefits as duplicative reporting requirements are removed.”

In 2014, the Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended that electronic fish tickets be required for all commercial sablefish deliveries, including landings in the limited entry and open access fisheries.

The new requirements will improve the accuracy and timeliness of commercial landings data for all groundfish species, which must be recorded on electronic fish tickets when delivered with sablefish. Vessel operators have landing information immediately available by accessing electronic fish ticket data via their first receiver, which is the initial buyer of the catch after it comes off the vessel.

The first receiver will be responsible for submitting electronic fish tickets online to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission through a password-protected interface, with proprietary data accessible only to the first receiver who entered it, the vessel owner or operator, NOAA Fisheries and law enforcement. The adoption of electronic fish tickets for all deliveries with sablefish may provide a model for the transition of other fisheries to similar electronic systems.

Home page photo of a sablefish by Rick Starr, NOAA. The red dots are from 4" spaced lasers, and are used to estimate the size of fish and other sea life.