The Division of Marine Fisheries has been hosting a series of public outreach meetings this past week to provide updates and gather input on the development and implementation of an automated system that will be used to schedule observer trips for the estuarine-anchored gill-net fishery in North Carolina.
The last of the five meetings will be held on Tuesday, May 9, at the Hatteras Community Building from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., and the public and stakeholders are welcome to attend.
The Division is working with the N.C. Department of Information Technology to develop the Observer Trip Scheduling System (OTSS), which will begin testing this fall.
The Division holds two Endangered Species Act Section 10 Incidental Take Permits (ITPs) for the incidental take of five species of sea turtles and Atlantic Sturgeon associated with lawful use of estuarine anchored gill nets. Per the ITPs’ Conservation Plans, the Division must obtain 7% to 10% observer coverage of anchored large-mesh gill-net trips and 1% to 2% observer coverage of anchored small-mesh gill-net trips.
Using the OTSS, fishermen will call into an automated voice response system to report their planned fishing trips. Fishermen from this list will be randomly selected to take an observer, then the automated system will contact all the fishermen who called in to alert them to their selection status. This will allow the Division to more efficiently schedule observer trips to administer the Observer Program and ensure greater compliance with the requirements of the ITPs and Estuarine Gill Net Permits.
The public outreach meetings were scheduled to provide an opportunity for members of the public to learn about the OTSS, ask questions, and provide input and comments on the proposed system.