WASHINGTON, D.C.—An emergency action was issued by the fisheries arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, March 24. The NOAA Fisheries emergency action would, according to an official statement, “provide the authority, on a case-by-case basis, to waive observer coverage, some training and other program requirements while meeting conservation needs and providing an ongoing supply of fish to markets.”
NOAA Fisheries’ emergency action would allow the federal agency to protect public health and ensure the safety of fishers.
The emergency action specifically gives the NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator, Office Director or Science Center Director the ability to waive observer requirements if three specific circumstances exist.
Those three circumstances which must be met are:
- Provider’s observers are under quarantine and, therefore, there isn’t enough staff for a fleet, port or vessel
- Observers are unable to physically get to a fishing vessel departure point due to travel restrictions or shelter in place guidelines
- Providers lack sufficient trained observers because NOAA Fisheries could not offer training (building access restrictions, meeting guidance, etc.).
“If observer requirements are waived, the agency will monitor fishing effort and catch data and other relevant information to ensure there are no significant adverse environmental consequences and consider alternative fishery management measures should such consequences arise,” NOAA Fisheries staff said in a released statement.
NOAA Fisheries said it would continue to maintain the nation’s seafood supply and protect marine life during the COVID-19 crisis, all while also ensuring the health and safety of its employees and partners.