Alaska is a state known for beautiful nature and wildlife. It should be no surprise that the state is also renowned for its abundant and high-quality fishing, with over half of all seafood caught in the United States coming from Alaska. These valuable waters are overseen by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC), which is one of several national councils under the U.S. Department of Commerce dedicated to developing and managing U.S. fisheries. Other NPFMC responsibilities include protecting habitats, supporting community development, and working with scientists and industry partners on research initiatives.
The decisions that the Council makes can impact livelihoods. Smaller committees meet several times a month to share ideas and make decisions, and the Council meets five times a year to hear from all stakeholders. Council meetings can last up to 10 days, typically hosting 50 to 100 participants each day including federal government agencies, NGOs, scientists, local fishermen, and the public.
“Policies can impact the environment and people’s lives, so our meetings are very open and interactive,” says Maria Davis, Communications/IT Specialist at NPFMC. “There’s always a lot of back-and-forth debate. Which is why when we had to go virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it posed a significant challenge.”
The Council wanted to preserve the critical face-to-face connection and interactive discussions that make meetings so productive. But not just any video conferencing solution would do. Council meetings required an easy-to-use and manage environment that would be as inclusive as possible. The platform also needed to overcome some unique technical hurdles, such as people attending from extremely remote locations, including fishing vessels, via satellite phone.
NPFMC had been using Adobe Connect since 2012, primarily as a broadcasting solution. When the pandemic hit, the organization started looking at how it could use Adobe Connect and its extension apps to create the highly interactive meeting environment it was looking for.
“Adobe Connect — along with the custom extensions, Vantage Point, rPhone, and HandsUp from Refined Data Solutions — provides the exact features that we wanted to create seamless virtual Council meetings,” says Davis. “It gives us the usability and performance that has made our Council meetings such a success.”