Alaska Marine Mammal Observer Program Manual (2007)
Yakutat observer manual
NOAA Fisheries has determined that observer programs are the best means of obtaining accurate and objective data for determining rates of marine mammal takes in fisheries. The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) gives NOAA Fisheries the authority to place observers aboard commercial fishing vessels to collect data for the purposes of assessing the impacts of commercial fisheries in the U.S. on marine mammal populations.
The objectives of the marine mammal observer programs are provided by the MMPA:
- Obtain statistically reliable estimates of incidental mortality and serious injury
- Determine reliability of fishermen’s reports of mortalities and serious injuries
- Identify changes in fishing methods or technology that may increase or decrease incidental mortalities and serious injuries.
Data provided by MMPA observer programs can support a primary goal of the Act--to decrease incidents of mortality in these fisheries to insignificant levels approaching zero. The priorities used to determine in which fisheries to implement observer programs are:
- Fisheries that take strategic marine mammal stocks.
- Fisheries that take species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
- Fisheries that have a take from a stock in which the level of take is uncertain.
The resources are not available to allow the agency to monitor all the fisheries the required by the MMPA. This presents the challenges of having to select which of the fisheries to observe effectively and how long to observe them given the limited resources available.