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NOAA Fisheries Issues Emergency Action to Waive Observer Coverage on a Case-by-Case Basis

March 24, 2020

NOAA Fisheries addresses fisheries observer coverage during the COVID-19 outbreak.


Providing seafood to the country remains an essential function even in these extraordinary times. Monitoring United States fisheries remains an essential part of that process. However, in recognition of travel and social distancing restrictions and guidance, NOAA Fisheries issued an emergency action to provide the authority, on a case-by-case basis, to waive observer coverage. This includes some training, and other program requirements while meeting conservation needs and providing an ongoing supply of fish to markets. 

Under this emergency action, NOAA Fisheries regional administrators, office directors, or science center directors have the ability to waive observer requirements in three specific circumstances, after consulting with observer providers. Under this emergency action, NOAA Fisheries may waive observer coverage requirements if:

  • Local, state, or national governments, or private companies or organizations that deploy observers pursuant to NOAA Fisheries regulations, restrict travel or otherwise issue COVID-19 related social control guidance. Or they update requirement(s) addressing COVID-19 related concerns that are inconsistent with the requirement(s) or not recommended to place an observer(s).
  • No qualified observer(s) are available for placement due to health, safety, or training issues related to COVID-19.

If observer requirements are waived, the agency will monitor fishing effort and catch data and other relevant information to ensure that there are no significant adverse environmental consequences and consider alternative fishery management measures should such consequences arise.

We will continue to fulfill our mission, maintaining our nation's seafood supply and protecting marine life, while ensuring the health and safety of our employees, partners, and broader fishing community during this crisis.