Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis Division History

Foreign Fishery

1933

Japan starts a fishery for yellowfin sole in the eastern Bering Sea.

1941

The outbreak of World War II ends the yellowfin sole fishery.

1954

Japanese fishing vessels return to the Bering Sea.

1959

Fishing vessels from the former U.S.S.R. join the Japanese.

Early 1960s

Participating vessels increase and target other species, mainly flatfish, and explore new fishing areas.

Mid 1960s

Japan and Russia target walleye pollock after a decline in flatfish stocks.

Late 1960s–1970s

Vessels from Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, and Poland fish in the eastern Bering Sea.

1973

The National Marine Fisheries Service places observers on foreign fishing vessels off the northwest and Alaskan coasts of the United States. This creates the North Pacific Foreign Fisheries Observer Program. Initially, observers were placed on vessels only by invitation from host countries. In the early years of the program, the primary purposes of observers were to find incidental catch rates of Pacific halibut in groundfish catches and to verify catch statistics in the Japanese crab fishery. Later, observers collected data on the incidence of king crab, snow (Tanner) crab, and Pacific salmon, and obtained biological data on other important species.

1976

The Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act mandates that foreign vessels accept observers.

1978

American fishermen fish for groundfish in joint ventures with foreign processing vessels.

1986

All non-joint ventures stop at this point.

1991

All foreign fishing within the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska ends.

Domestic Fishery

1986

NMFS places observers on domestic vessels to support an industry-funded data gathering program. This program was on domestic vessels fishing in the Bering Sea, north of Port Moller, where bycatch of red king crab was of concern.

Late 1980s

Other small-scale domestic observer programs start.

1988

Amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) require fishery vessels that have frequent interactions with marine mammals to carry observers for 20 to 30 percent of their fishing days.

1989

NMFS places observers aboard vessels through Federal funding. The groundfish management plans for the Gulf of Alaska and eastern Bering Sea amend to establish mandatory observer coverage requirements for vessels and plants involved in the groundfish fishery in these areas.

1990

The North Pacific Observer Program begins. Under this program, NMFS provides the operational oversight of the program, certification training, definition of observer sampling duties and methods, debriefing of observers, and management of the data. Although the vessel and plant owners pay for the cost of the observers, the Federal Government covers the costs associated with managing the program.

2013

NMFS changes how observers in the partial coverage category deploy, how observer coverage in the partial coverage category is funded, and the vessels and processors that must have some or all of their operations observed. These changes increase the statistical reliability of data collected by the program, address cost inequality among fishery participants, and expand observer coverage to unobserved fisheries.

Last updated by Alaska Fisheries Science Center on June 22, 2018