As fishing regulators continue to consider changes to current groundfish monitoring programs, NOAA Fisheries is developing a new strategic communications plan to help stakeholders more fully participate in the rule-making process.

Toward that end, NOAA Fisheries is asking groundfish stakeholders to participate in an online survey that focuses on two areas — what information do fishermen need about current groundfish monitoring programs and the best manner for delivering that information.

The survey, which opened Friday and will be available online until July 21, can be found on the website It is designed to take five to 10 minutes and can be completed anonymously.

"Our effort is focused on communicating information about monitoring programs, not developing alternatives or making policy decisions," NOAA Fisheries said in announcing the survey. "We also expect this effort to provide tools and resources that can be applied across programs to improve the clarity and effectiveness of our communications with industry members."

NOAA Fisheries has contracted with Vision Planning and Consulting to help it develop the new communications strategy and improve its communication about its various groundfish monitoring programs.

The agency said it is developing the new strategy "to ensure that members of the industry, particularly those who may not always participate, have the information they need about our programs to meaningfully participate in the development of Amendment 23."

The New England Fishery Management Council has spent the past two years working on Amendment 23 which explores using monitoring — whether human at-sea monitoring, electronic monitoring or dockside monitoring — to improve the reliability and accountability of commercial groundfish catch reporting, including discards and landings.

The council has finalized its range of alternatives for the amendment and its groundfish plan development team is working to compete a draft environmental impact study — perhaps in time for the council's September meeting in Gloucester.

The council then would select its preferred alternatives in advance of a public hearing and comment period in November. Final action could come in December, with the new regulations enacted in time for the 2020 fishing season.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.

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