In Southeast U.S. electronic logbooks for guided sportfishing pass test with flying colors

A new project report released through NOAA’s Marine Recreational Information Program details the effort in the Southeast Region Headboat Survey (SRHS) to move away from paper logbooks to electronic logbooks. The SRHS provides key data regarding recreational fishing effort, catch and biological information that supports stock assessments of fisheries in the southeast coast of the U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico. The results reveal that electronic logbooks provide a variety of improvements over paper logbooks, including better quality control, reduced data handling, and more secure data delivery. Annual operating costs are anticipated to be lower through electronic reporting, and data summaries would be available more quickly to managers and the public.

The general recommendations from the report include the following: (1) Implement electronic logbooks for charter boats in the entire southeastern U.S. (2) Fund support services during the transition from paper reporting to electronic reporting, with additional support into out-years. (3) Support development of an Internet-based software interface for electronic reporting. (4) Utilize the expertise of SRHS staff to provide a local level of training and quality control to vessel owner/operators to improve data quality. (5) Review and implement effective regulatory infrastructure for transitioning to electronic reporting, with further emphasis on electronic logbook reporting compliance.

Other recommendations focused on software issues, with suggestions for an Internet-based portal to submit charter boat data, expand visual aids for electronic logbook applications, such as maps of fishing areas and species identification aids, use of smart menus which can track users’ past entries to adaptively simplify future data entry, and query function allowing effort and catch to be summarized according to user needs.

The state of Alaska has been considering a similar transition from paper to electronic logbook reporting for the guided sportfishing industry.