Protected Species Observers
Information for Protected Species Observers engaging in monitoring activities.
Protected Species Observers are trained professionals who monitor for protected species, or animals federally protected under the Endangered Species Act and/or Marine Mammal Protection Act, to help a wide range of industries meet their regulatory compliance needs.
NOAA Fisheries reviews the qualifications of Protected Species Observers to ensure they have the expertise to support specific projects. Projects that may require Protected Species Observers includes dredging and spoil disposal, construction and demolition, pile driving, explosive blasting, and geophysical (seismic) surveys including but not limited to the use of airguns. Although much of the work focuses on detection of marine mammals (such as whales or dolphins) and sea turtles, observers may often encounter a number of other observable protected marine species, such as manta rays, sharks, salmonids, and sturgeon swimming near the water’s surface.
A Protected Species Observer is different from an observer working under the NOAA Fisheries Observer Program. The training, duties, and approval process is different for each type of observer, and is not immediately transferable.
Protected Species Observer’s credentials are reviewed for specific projects to ensure their appropriate training and/or experience to perform the necessary duties, e.g., detection of protected species, observation and recording protected species behavior and to document and report on protected species interactions. While compliance requirements and reporting may differ by project, Protected Species Observers should have education and/or experience, as well as appropriate training to safely perform their required duties. The following sections contain more information about the education or experience, and training that NOAA Fisheries recommends for fulfilling all Protected Species Observer duties.
Basic Criteria to Become a Protected Species Observer
In addition to the generalized education/experience and training recommended by NOAA Fisheries (e.g., National Standards for a Protected Species Observer and Data Management Program: A Model Using Geological and Geophysical Surveys), there may be project-specific experience, training, or certifications that are required by industry, third-party providers, or to meet the compliance needs of the particular project. Protected Species Observers should consult industry standards, the regulatory conditions set out for that project and their employer’s guidelines to ensure they are adequately prepared to fulfill their role.
NOAA Fisheries Review Process of Protected Species Observers
NOAA Fisheries does not conduct formal training for Protected Species Observers, but we review the credentials of observers who may be qualified to perform Protected Species Observer duties for a particular project. For geological and geophysical surveys, NMFS regional offices are responsible for reviewing individual protected species observers in their corresponding areas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the correct office to contact.
Our approval is based on an individual’s training, education, and experience. In some cases, specific work experience is an acceptable proxy for formal education. Approval may be conditional or unconditional. “Conditional” approval – means a Protected Species Observer meets all other requirements and has been approved for on-the-job training working for a set time under an unconditional or lead observer. Protected Species Observers will receive “unconditional” approval after on-the-job training requirements have been met for that role, but such approval will lapse after a certain period of inactivity.
Trainers and Providers
There are numerous companies who provide or train Protected Species Observers for industry, agencies and academia. Protected Species Observers can contact the companies directly for more information on their programs. Depending on the requirements, Protected Species Observer individuals, providers or representative agencies generally submit an individual’s resume package to NOAA Fisheries at email@example.com for approval consideration or redirection to the appropriate regional office for review. NOAA Fisheries does not endorse any specific companies or their training programs. However, NOAA Fisheries reviews curriculum and training materials provided in the Protected Species Observer’s resume package. For privacy reasons, NOAA Fisheries does not supply the names of qualified or approved Protected Species Observers to consultants or to industry.