Surveillance Systems for Sustainable Fisheries: Perceptions on the Adoption of Electronic Monitoring in the Northeast US Multispecies Fishery

Amendment 23 (A23) to the Northeast Multispecies Fisheries Management Plan will remake monitoring systems for the Northeast US commercial groundfish fishery. In addition to substantially increasing monitoring coverage, A23 will provide fishers with the option to utilize electronic monitoring (EM) technologies in place of human at-sea observers. Based on twenty-sixinterviews with representatives of the fishing industry, nongovernmental organizations, regulatory agencies, EM service providers, and other stakeholder groups, this paper examines how the fishery is planning for the adoption of EM. We focus on the differing perspectives on the value of EM as an appropriate tool for protecting the fishery, and as a tool of surveillance that may transform the lives of fishers. We find that while most stakeholders support the use of EM in the future, mistrust within the industry—based on historical regulatory failures, perceived lack of information on technical feasibility, privacy and data ownership issues, and the unknown long-term costs to vessel owners—posessignificant barriers to successful adoption of these technologies. We conclude that these barriers can be overcome by investing in co-management driven EM implementations that draw on the expertise of fishersand increase their autonomy over their vessels and their use of data. This study offers critical insights into the conflicting sociotechnical imaginaries that co-produce spaces of surveillance for natural resource management, as well as provides important findings for the fishery as A23 moves into implementation phases. Read the full and learn more about JPB Fellows Kirk Jalbert and Matthew Cutler’s research here.