West Coast Groundfish and At-Sea Hake Observer Data Collection, Quality Control, Training, and Sampling Manuals
Overview of observer data collection, quality control, debriefing, and evaluation processes. Training requirements, dates, and current observer sampling manuals for West Coast Groundfish and At-Sea Hake observer programs.
What We Do
Fisheries observers are professional field biologists who monitor commercial fishing activities by collecting and recording at-sea catch and discard data. Observers must adhere to a high standard of conduct while maintaining an unbiased and neutral role onboard assigned fishing vessels.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires observer data to be confidential. This requirement means we can only share observers' raw data with observer program staff, designated enforcement agents, and vessel permit owners.
Observer Data Collection
Data collected by the observers on a trip basis include:
- Departure and return date, onboard fish processing, vessel logbook name and page number, crew count, departure, and return port.
- First receiver and fish ticket identification numbers.
Data collected by the observers on a tow/set basis include:
- Start and end date/time, location, and depth for all fishing events.
- Use of bycatch reduction devices, gear type, and fishing strategy.
- Estimated total catch weight (including those for which there is 100% discard).
- Weight of discarded and retained, by species or species group. Reason for discard.
- Species composition.
- Catch of prohibited species and incidental take of protected species.
- Size composition, tags, and viability assessments for Pacific halibut.
- Size composition of assigned species.
- Basic taxonomic composition of non-fish bycatch.
- Biological collections (otoliths, maturity, food habits, genetic samples, etc.).
Observer Data Quality Control
We use the following procedures to maintain the quality of data we collect:
Knowledgeable staff, including biologists and former observers, train our observers. A combination of lectures, hands-on activities, in-class exercises, and homework assignments prepare observers for the challenges of sampling at-sea.
Observes collect data at sea following protocols in the West Coast Groundfish Observer Program Manual and At-sea Hake Observer Program Manual.
Observers keep logbooks detailing the events of each trip. The logbook includes basic deck schematics, communication logs, Vessel Safety and Equipment Test checklists, and Observer Safety Surveys. There is also a Daily Notes section outlining the day-to-day activities aboard each vessel. Observers document any tows/sets during which sampling problems occurred.
Observers provide detailed accounts of the sampling methods used at-sea by completing the Sampling Verification or Sample Design form. Debriefers use these forms to identify errors in sampling methodology and provide guidance on more effective sampling strategies.
Observers use Species Identification forms to verify the accuracy of species identification. Observers must complete identification forms for every new species they encounter. Debriefers then use these forms to identify and correct any species misidentification errors.
We run automated trip error reports during the initial data entry and after the observer uploads a trip into the secure database system.
Observers periodically undergo debriefing during or after a deployment. Debriefing consists of an interview with our staff to discuss sampling methods and resolve data errors. The debriefing process includes:
- Calculation, Data Form, and Sampling Methodology Checks - The debriefer checks all calculations for accuracy, reviews data forms for completeness, and ensures appropriate sampling methodologies were employed.
- Data Entry Check - We check electronic data and raw paper data for consistency and keypunch errors.
- Database Update - The debriefer reviews any data flagged by manual or automated quality control queries. We make all necessary changes to the electronic database and update any raw (paper) data forms.
- Evaluation - We evaluate observers on their performance based upon WCGOP or A-SHOP generated criteria. We identify areas for improvement and track their progress.
Database Quality Control Queries - We run quality control queries to detect data that fall outside specified ranges and identify other inconsistencies between data elements. These database quality control queries are run regularly on all data collected during a specified period.
To maintain deployment status and receive satisfactory performance assessments, observers must demonstrate proficiency during each trip and follow standardized sampling protocols found in the West Coast Groundfish Observer Program Manual or At-Sea Hake Observer Program Manual.
Observers are employed by observer providers (see list below), who coordinate with the observer program for training enrollment. Training for new and returning observers covers safety at-sea, species identification, protected species, sampling protocols, biological specimen collection, sampling gear, data entry, and conflict resolution.
- West Coast Groundfish Observers Training Requirements (catch share and non-catch shares) (PDF, 2 pages)
- At-Sea Hake Eligibility and Training Requirements (PDF, 1 page)
At-sea Hake Observer Program
Annual Training for Certified Observers in good standing (4 days)
Minimum class size: 5
Maximum class size: 25
October 20-23, 2020 (Virtual)
West Coast Groundfish Observer Program
Catch Share and Non-Catch Share Observer Training
New Observer Training (15 days minimum, two weeks are virtual)
Minimum class size: 6
Maximum class size: 24
All training classes are tentative pending approval from NOAA
February 8-26, 2021
March start 8th, length TBD, 2021
Annual Briefing for Eligible Returning Observers (2 days virtual)
No minimum or maximum class size
December 15-16, 2020
January 12-13, 2021
January 26-27, 2021 (tentative)
For information regarding training or briefing please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catch Monitor Training
For information on Catch Monitor Training, please contact Lori Jesse at the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission at 503-595-3282 or email@example.com.