Fishery observer on deck of commercial fishing boat.

Fishery Observers

Observer Programs

For more than four decades, we have used fishery observers to collect catch and bycatch data from U.S. commercial fishing and processing vessels, as well as from shore-side processing plants and “motherships” also known as receiving vessels. Our eyes and ears on the water, observers and at-sea monitors are professionally trained biological scientists gathering first-hand data on what’s caught and thrown back by U.S. commercial fishing vessels. The high-quality data they collect are used to monitor federal fisheries, assess fish populations, set fishing quotas, and inform management of those fisheries. Observers also support compliance with fishing and safety regulations.

Today, there are fisheries observer programs in all five NOAA Fisheries management regions: Alaska, West Coast, Pacific Islands, Greater Atlantic, and Southeast. All of these region-based programs fall under our National Observer Program, which allows us to address observer issues of national importance and to develop overarching policies and procedures to reflect the diverse needs of regional observer programs while enhancing data quality and achieving consistency in key areas of national importance.


New England/Mid-Atlantic

Pacific Islands


West Coast