The North Pacific Observer Program (Observer Program) which plays a vital role in the conservation and management of the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, and Gulf of Alaska groundfish and halibut fisheries. The program trains, briefs, debriefs, and oversees over 450 observers annually who collect catch data onboard fishing vessels and at onshore processing plants that is used for in-season management and scientific purposes such as stock assessments and ecosystem studies. The program ensures that the data collected by observers are of the highest quality possible by implementing rigorous quality control and quality assurance processes for the data collected by observers.
The Observer Program provides the regulatory framework for NOAA Fisheries certified observers to collect data on groundfish and halibut fisheries. The information collected by observers provides the best scientific information to manage the fisheries and to develop measures to minimize bycatch. Observers collect biological samples and fishery-dependent information on total catch and interactions with protected species. Managers use data collected by observers to monitor quotas, manage groundfish and prohibited species catch, and document and reduce fishery interactions with protected resources. Division staff process data and make it available to the Sustainable Fisheries Division of the Alaska Regional Office for quota monitoring, to scientists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center for stock assessment, ecosystem investigations, and an array of research investigations, as well as the fishing industry itself which relies on observer data to monitor quotas and prohibited species catch (PSC).
In January 2013, NOAA Fisheries changed how observers in the partial coverage category are deployed, how observer coverage in the partial coverage category is funded, and which vessels and processors must have some or all of their operations observed. These changes increased the statistical reliability of data collected by the program, addressed cost inequality among fishery participants, and expanded observer coverage to previously unobserved fisheries.
The Observer Program is implemented by regulations at subpart E of 50 CFR part 679 which authorize the deployment of observers and EM to collect information necessary for the conservation and management of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska groundfish and halibut fisheries. The information collected by observers provides the best available scientific information to manage the fisheries and to develop measures to minimize bycatch. Observers collect biological samples and fishery-dependent information on total catch and interactions with protected species. Managers use data collected by observers and EM to monitor quotas, manage groundfish and prohibited species catch, and document and reduce fishery interactions with protected resources. Scientists use observer-collected data for stock assessments and marine ecosystem research.
All participants in the federally-managed commercial groundfish fisheries off Alaska (except catcher vessels delivering unsorted codends to a mothership) are subject to Observer Program requirements. Through the Annual Deployment Plan, NOAA Fisheries has the flexibility to decide when and where to deploy observers in the partial coverage category based on a scientifically defensible deployment plan reviewed annually by the Council.
Vessels and processors are placed into one of two observer coverage categories:
Described at § 679.51(a)(2), the full coverage category includes —
Vessels and processors in the full coverage category obtain observers by contracting directly with permitted observer providers.
Described at § 679.51(a)(1), the partial coverage category includes —
All vessels in the partial coverage category are placed into one of these pools with differing requirements. These pools and requirements are as follows:
FFP holders are not required to carry an observer or EM system while they fish in the State of Alaska guideline harvest level groundfish fisheries, unless they are retaining IFQ species or halibut CDQ during those fisheries.
Observer coverage in the partial coverage category is funded through a system of fees based on the ex-vessel value of groundfish and halibut landed by vessels in the partial coverage category. Beginning in 2019, the funds from this fee will also be used to deploy Electronic Monitoring. Landings accruing against an IFQ allocation or a Federal TAC for groundfish from vessels in the partial coverage category are assessed a 1.25% fee using standard ex-vessels prices multiplied by the landed catch weight of groundfish and halibut. The standard prices are published annual in the Federal Register and the fee percentage is set in regulations at § 679.55 and reviewed periodically by the Council.
The fee is split between the processor or Registered Buyer and the vessel owner or operator. The processor or Registered Buyer collects the vessel operator’s share of the fee at the time of landing and remits the fee to NOAA Fisheries each year. Owners of small catcher/processors in the partial coverage category are responsible for remitting the full fee to NOAA Fisheries.
Vessels that carry observers are required to have a valid U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Decal issued within the last two years, which ensures the vessel is in compliance with USCG safety equipment requirements. Please plan ahead for this requirement because USCG examiners are not located in all communities and may have difficulty reaching your location on short notice.
A planktonic organism called a sea butterfly. This one is covered with some gelatinous organisms.
Harmony Wayner, Betty Bonin and Rhonda Wayner represent 3 generations of fisherwomen in Naknek.
Kitty Sopow presents a seagull egg she gathered.