Pacific Islands Region Observer Program Opportunities
Fishery observers in the Pacific Islands region must meet the following mandatory qualifications on U.S. fishing vessels to collect data.
Getting Started As An Observer
NOAA Fisheries contracts with, or certifies, private companies that recruit, hire, and deploy observers on fishing vessels. These companies provide support services, such as insurance, meal allowances, and travel expenses to observers.
Biologists employed as fishery observers in the Pacific Islands must meet the following mandatory qualifications:
A bachelor’s degree in a biological science from an accredited four year college or university. Coursework must include at least 30 semester hours in any combination of scientific or technical courses, such as biology, chemistry, statistics, entomology, animal husbandry, physics, or mathematics, of which at least 6 semester hours* are in marine science or fisheries. A bachelor's degree in a major other than biological sciences may be considered on a case-by-case basis at the sole discretion of NOAA Fisheries
* One year of specialized experience, provided the work was performed at an acceptable level, may be substituted for the 6 semester hours of marine science or fisheries course work. Additional specialized experience may, at the sole discretion of NOAA Fisheries, be substituted for a portion of the educational requirement on a case-by-case basis when it is in the best interest of NOAA Fisheries to do so. The specialized experience must have been in the field of fisheries and include functions such as:
- Observing ocean-fishing activities
- Recording data on sea turtle and marine mammal sighting and fishing activities
- Tallying incidental take of sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals from fishing platforms
- Collecting biological specimens from postmortem animals
- Entering collected data into a database using computers
Longline Observer Training
- An individual who has previously—within a one-year period—completed the NOAA Fisheries longline observer training and who is currently certified under the NOAA Fisheries longline observer program.
- On a case-by-case basis, an individual accepted by NOAA Fisheries to attend the longline training courses who successfully is certified as a longline or bottomfish observer.
- An Individual who has successfully passed a two-and-a-half-week pre-training Marine Options Program (MOP) from the University of Hawaii (Alu Like) and also passed the NOAA Fisheries three-week observer training class with a score of 85 percent or higher.
Additional Mandatory Observer Requirement
- Federal background check
- CPR and first aid certification
- Physical fitness exam
The three week training course will cover the following topics:
- Safety at sea & first aid
- Species identification
- Protected species data & handling
- Fishing gear characteristics
- Data forms, collection, and entry
The main duty of observers is to collect data. The data collected by observers include:
- Basic biological information from target and non-target species
- Catch and discard rates
- Fishing gear descriptions
- Catch and interaction rates of sea turtles
- Seabirds and marine mammals
- Sightings of protected species
- The collection of samples and specimens from selected species.
- Valuable economic survey data
Another important observers duty is outreach to fishermen on some fishing regulations and protected species handling. The goal is to help fishermen understand and comply with certain regulations pertaining to bycatch mitigation rules.
Observers also assist on-going research projects by tagging sea turtles caught incidentally and collecting valuable skin biopsies from marine mammals. Observers may also have the chance to participate in the annual spiny and slipper lobster research cruises in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Observers are frequently employed by regional fishery scientists to work as at-sea data collectors to help monitor experimental fishing techniques.
Observers in the Pacific Islands longline and bottomfish Fisheries do not work directly for the federal Government. Rather they are employed by an observer contractor. The current contractor is Lynker Technologies.