National Observer Program
The National Observer Program within NOAA Fisheries' Office of Science and Technology provides support to observer programs around the country. Improvements in data collection, observer training, and the integration of observer data with other research are among the important issues that the program works to achieve on a national level.
Our mission is to provide a formal way for NOAA Fisheries to address observer issues of national importance, and support observers and regional observer programs through development of necessary policies and procedures. The policies must reflect the diverse needs of regional observer programs while enhancing data quality and achieving consistency in areas of national importance.
- Coordinate the National Observer Program Advisory Team.
- Communicate and advocate the mission of the National Observer Program and each regional observer program.
- Develop and support national standards and policies to create high-quality, cost-effective, efficient, and productive observer programs.
- Characterize the activities and resources of NOAA Fisheries observer programs through annual reports and other means, and advocate for full support of regional programs.
Enhancements to data quality and data collection procedures
- Develop and evaluate NOAA Fisheries initiatives to improve the quality of observer data from regional observer programs.
- Evaluate the procedures for collection of observer data, including the review of data collection methodologies and bycatch estimation procedures.
- Develop technological and methodological enhancements to improve data collection techniques.
- Enhance the quality of data collected by observers through development of national standards for the collection, management, and distribution of observer data.
- Enhance integration of observer data with other data collection programs such as logbooks, VMS, and landings reports.
- Develop and update a national bycatch report for documentation of regional and national bycatch estimates and estimation procedures, identification of gaps in coverage, and input into strategic planning processes.
- Identify amendments under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and other federal legislation necessary to support observer program activities.
- Develop national policies on issues of national concern to observer programs, such as hiring and training observers, observer safety and health, and data confidentiality.
- Recognize and support the needs of observers so they are able to collect high-quality scientific data.
- Communicate National Observer Program activities of interest to the observer community.
- Identify the agency’s highest priorities for observer data collection and make recommendations on how observer programs can fulfill those needs.
- Review regional observer programs and make recommendations on how to improve program operations and administration.
- Review the cost efficiency and effectiveness of observer program operations.
Outreach and education
- Communicate the goals and objectives of NOAA Fisheries observer programs at a national level.
- Support and coordinate the outreach activities of regional observer programs.
- Formalize working relationships between observer programs and other state/federal agencies and organizations.
- Support and participate in the International Fisheries Observer Conference.
- Support policies and practices that help ensure safety of observers in international fisheries.
- Assist other NOAA Fisheries offices with international observer-related issues.