The National Marine Fisheries Service is planning to tighten regulations on scales used to weigh catches aboard factory fishing vessels operating off Alaska.
NMFS says it has "investigated several cases of potential scale tampering and fraud that may have resulted in large underestimations of catch" in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.
Federal authorities have levied more than $2.7 million in fines against American Seafoods, the largest operator of factory trawlers in the pollock fishery.
At-sea scales can provide very precise and accurate estimates of catch, NMFS says, provided the scales are not monkeyed with.
It's now apparent that regulatory changes are needed to stop scale fraud, the agency says.
This briefing paper lays out the possible changes. Among them:
• Require vessels to report scale tests daily
• Expand video monitoring of the scale area
• Have an observer present whenever scales are recalibrated
• Enhance the "audit trail" on scale adjustments.