DFO postpones full resumption of At-Sea Observer Program

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Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has postponed the full reinstatement of the At-Sea Observer Program (ASOP) following continued health and safety concerns of the pandemic.

The decision was influenced by harvesters and coastal community members addressing DFO amid increased coronovirus infections in B.C.

“DFO acknowledges that while Public Health authorities and WorkSafeBC have outlined the manner in which vessels can safely fish in the context of COVID-19, and that at-sea observer deployment procedures should be able to satisfy these requirements, the situation is changing rapidly and requires further consideration,” reads a DFO notice Nov. 10.

The department added it will continue to work with stakeholders to allow the full resumption of the program once transmission of the virus between vessel crew and observers can be minimized, and ASOP service providers can complete training to meet the staffing requirements of the fishery.

At-sea observers are responsible for the on-board monitoring of fishing activities, collecting scientific data and monitoring industry compliance with fishing regulations and licence conditions.

The Emergency Electronic Monitoring Pilot Program will remain in place of ASOP, but DFO noted Option A trawl vessels may elect to carry at-sea observers, subject to their availability, if they follow provincial COVID-19 guidelines.

“The emergency EM program implemented in the absence of at-sea observer services has served as an important stopgap management measure, but is not yet an effective, long-term replacement to the ASOP.

Quinn Bender, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View