Charter captains sue federal government over electronic monitoring of boats and fishing

Some charter boat captains fear the federal government’s plans to use GPS to track their movements could be invasive and bad for business.

The new rule from NOAA Fisheries includes GPS monitoring of boats and electronic reporting for fishing.

Capt. Allen Walburn, of A & B Charters, has been taking guests deep sea fishing for more than 40 years.

“I’ve been operating charters in Naples since 1978,” Walburn said. “Fishing for grouper, snapper, amberjack, cobia, barracuda, goliath grouper, that sort of thing.”

Walburn and other captains have decided to challenge the new rule with a lawsuit. NOAA Fisheries declined to comment on pending litigation.

“If the device chooses not to function on a particular day, for whatever reason, our boats have to remain tied to the dock. So we can’t go fishing if their device doesn’t work,” Walburn said.

NOAA Fisheries say the goal behind the rule is to provide more accurate and reliable information about catches to keep tabs on fish populations and better manage fisheries.

NOAA says electronic reporting also helps with information on species with low annual catch limits or ones that are rarely seen.

“We’re dead set against it, but another thing that really sits hard with me is they’re making us buy these devices,” Walburn said.

NOAA Fisheries said the purchase costs for the tracking device may be reimbursed, while installation and operating costs are not.

A spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Department of Commerce said the rule for logging catches went into effect in January while the monitoring system rule goes into effect in December.

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For more information on the electronic monitoring program, visit here.

For more information on the lawsuit, visit here.

 

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
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