Observers are highly trained biologists that work independently aboard vessels to quantify total catch. They estimate bycatch, collect biological samples, and monitor for fishery interactions with marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds. Observers focus on scientific data collection at sea and they play an important role in ensuring the sustainability of the fishery.
NOAA Fisheries coordinates a national program through its Office of Science and Technology, based upon geographic areas and needs. Along the West Coast, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region runs the West Coast Region Observer Program and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center runs the Pacific Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share and non-Catch Shares Observer Programs. Fisheries Observers are deployed under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
West Coast Region Observer Program
The West Coast Region Observer Program (WCROP) places NOAA Fisheries trained observers aboard fishing vessels to monitor the incidental capture of marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds. Primarily observers in this program are placed on vessels targeting highly migratory species (such as tuna and swordfish), as well as coastal pelagic species (such as sardine, anchovy, and market squid). Observers also record details on fishing activity, gear configuration, and the catch and disposition of target and non target fish species. Observers collect biological samples for use in life history studies and stock assessments performed by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center.
Learn more about the West Coast Region Observer Program.
Pacific Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share and Non-Catch Share Observer Programs
The Northwest Fisheries Science Center oversees these Pacific Coast Groundfish Observer Programs.
The Observer Program for the Pacific Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program requires that vessels participating in the shorebased Individual Fishing Quota program have observer coverage at all times the vessel is at sea.
The Non-Catch Share Groundfish Observer Program places observers on vessels that do not participate in the shorebased Individual Fishing Quota program. Observers participating in these programs are employed by private third-party companies.
Please contact the Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Groundfish Observer Program for a list of current providers. For additional information please visit the Center’s Groundfish observer program website or call 206.302.1777.