Area A Dungeness Crab Fishery in Prince Rupert, Canada

In 2010, the Area A Crab Association partnered with Ecotrust Canada to develop an electronic monitoring (EM) system that was cost effective and would adapt to the changing conditions of the fishery.

As one of the most important and lucrative Dungeness crab fisheries in BC, it is essential to be sustainable, effectively managed, and economically viable. This project has three key objectives:

To design a system with Area A crab fish harvesters that was responsive to their needs;

To increase EM options available to Area A fish harvesters; and

To create a system that contributes to the sustainability of the fleet, healthy crab stocks, and North Coast communities.

Throughout the project, the aim was to reduce costs to make EM more accessible.

This was accomplished, in part, by increasing the functionality and customization potential of EM systems to meet both fleet and regulatory needs. By the time Area A’s 52 vessels began the 2011 season, all were equipped with new EM systems with open source software. Avoiding the use of proprietary software keeps the EM systems affordable and accessible, lowering costs related to updating, upgrading, maintenance, and management.

The EM system in use includes the equipment necessary for collecting video, vessel tracking, hydraulic sensor and trap scan data:

  • On-vessel hardware: EM system—small computer that records incoming data from video cameras, RFID scanners, GPS, etc.
  • Recording and reporting software: on-vessel hardware contains software drivers to read and compile data into databases on 150 GB hard drives.
  • Data management hardware: hard drives are copied and studied in Prince Rupert using analytical software that identifies potential compliance issues for review by a trained technician.

The EM system is also designed to fit the following best practices:

Buoy registry: At the start of the season, each vessel owner registers their DFO-approved, individual buoy pattern to create an up-to-date electronic registry of buoy patterns.

Trap limit management: The season’s maximum trap limit is distributed, through RFID tag distribution, among the fleet based on vessel length.

Inventory management: Work with vessel owners to inventory the fishing gear they will use for the season, verify that RFID tags in their buoys are working, replace and scan new tags as needed, and collect the associated data.

Area, time, and gear restrictions: During data analysis, vessel compliance with DFO restrictions for the area, time, and gear (including use of hoop traps, soft shell opening and closures, and trap limits) are checked.