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What is a fisheries observer?

A fisheries observer is a professionally trained biologist who works on commercial fishing and processing vessels. When fish are hauled on board, an observer will be on deck collecting samples and recording the number and weight of the species caught. These data help keep track of the overall fish population and any protected species that may have been caught unintentionally as bycatch. Observers may be at sea for two or three months at a time, living on the boat, and working whenever the fishermen work—day and night. It’s a difficult and somewhat dangerous job.

To be a fisheries observer, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in biology. A good mental attitude, observational skills, and patience are important, too. In this job, your routines will change and be interrupted frequently. Being a fisheries observer can also be a stepping stone to other NOAA jobs like marine biologist, fisheries research scientist, and NOAA Corps officer.