Fisheries observer

Fisheries observer

A fisheries observer is an independent specialist who serves on board commercial fishing vessels, or in fish processing plants and other platforms, and is employed by a fisheries observer programme, either directly by a government agency or by a third party contractor. Observers are usually the only independent data collection source for some types of at-sea information, such as bycatch, catch composition, and gear configuration data.

Fisheries-dependent information is critical for the responsible management and conservation of living marine resources, and many worldwide marine resource management regimes utilize fisheries observers for the collection of this data.

Fisheries observer programme

A fisheries observer programme is responsible for providing the training and support necessary for deploying observers on board fishing vessels in order to collect the fisheries-dependent information essential to achieving the management objectives of the programme.

Fisheries observer programmes vary according to the management objective. The three main objectives are

* Scientific: including stock (targeted and / or bycatch species) assessments and predictions of future fisheries exploitation of stocks. Observer duties include collection of catch composition and environmental / ecological information, and biological sampling of catch

* Monitoring control and surveillance (MCS): including assessments of fishing and / or transhipment activities to ensure fisheries management measures are followed. Observer duties include verification of logbooks with fishing and / or transhipment activities and registering compliance with all regulations.

* Fisheries: including the objectives found in both scientific and MCS observer programmes. Observer duties also include the observer duties found in both scientific and MCS observer programmes.

The integrity of a fisheries observer programme is a function of the conduct, morale, and performance of its employees. Moreover, the stature and stability of a programme has direct bearing on the quality of its data products and on the level of confidence that scientists, managers, and policy makers are able to ascribe to the use of this data.

Note: Fisheries inspection programmes, conducted by officials with enforcement powers are not to be considered observer programmes. Though observers may be tasked to register compliance with fisheries regulations, it must be noted that observers do not have enforcement powers and are not to be considered enforcement agents.


* Davies, S L and Reynolds, J E (2003) [ "Guidelines for developing an at-sea fishery observer programme"] FAO Tech paper T414. ISBN 92-5-104871-1
* van Helvoort, Gus (1986) [ "Observer Program Operations Manual"] FAO Tech paper T275. ISBN 92-5-102461-8


*Anon. 2001. "Proceedings of the Canada - US Fisheries Observer Program Workshop", June 26-29, 2000, St. John's Newfoundland. U.S. Dep. Commerce, Silver Spring, MD.
* Cornish, V; Didier, Alysius; Nance J; Tork M; Lafargue, J. ; Toner, M; Turk, T; Donahue, B; Rogers, B and Kulka, E David (eds.). 2004. "Proceedings of the Third International Fisheries Observer Conference." NOAA Tech. Memo NMFS-F/SPO-64, U.S. Dep. Commerce, Silver Spring, MD.
* McElderry, H; Karp, W A; Twomey, J; Merklein, M; Cornish, V and Saunders, M. (1999) "Proceedings of the first biennial Canada/U.S. observer program workshop", 113 p. NTIS No. PB99-146482.
* McVea, T A and Kennelly, S J (eds) (2005) "Proceedings of the 4th International Fisheries Observer Conference, Sydney Australia, 8-11 November, 2004. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre of Excellence, Cronulla, Australia.
* McVea, T A, and Kennelly, S J (eds) 2007. Proceedings of the 5th International Fisheries Observer Conference", 15-18 May 2007, Victoria, BC Canada. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre of Excellence, Cronulla, Australia.
* Davis K G and Quelch G D (2008) "Observer Professionalism Working Group (OPWG) 5th International Fisheries Observer Conference (IFOC) Report." 87pp.


* [ Association for Professional Observers] (APO)
* National Marine Fisheries Service: [ National Observer Program]
* [ Fisheries Observer Conference] (FOC)

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