NOAA is committed to maintaining a strong observer workforce now and in the future. These trained biological technicians are our eyes and ears on the water, sometimes in challenging conditions. Because the technical skills observers possess take time and resources to hone and are essential to good data collection, retaining knowledgeable and hardworking observers is critical to meeting NOAA’s mission.
An observer’s job requires field skills and scientific knowledge that may require multiple deployments before gaining proficiency. The National Observer Program wanted to learn if improvements could be made to more effectively recruit and retain observers to maintain the high quality standard on data quality that regional observer programs have maintained. As a result, NOAA released the results of a nationwide survey on observer attitudes and experiences in May 2019 as part of its overall observer safety program. Results from this observer attitudes and experiences survey, along with other regional surveys, will serve as key data sources for the national and regional observer programs and help guide these programs moving forward.
More than 550 current and former domestic observers responded to the anonymous online survey. They responded to questions on topics including demographics, education and work history, pre-employment motivation, observer experience, job satisfaction, job difficulties, career plans, safety (including harassment) incidents, experience in international fisheries, opinions about electronic monitoring, and issues of regional interest.
The survey results provided needed clarity on factors that contribute to observer recruitment and retention and will ensure that NOAA Fisheries has the necessary information it needs to support robust science-driven observer programs.