West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Observer Program
The Northwest Fisheries Science Center Observer Program trains, certifies, and equips catch share observers; ensures data quality; stores, maintains, and analyzes data collected by observers.
West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program
The U.S. West Coast groundfish trawl fishery is managed under the Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program. The program divides the fishery's total allowable catch into shares controlled by individual fishermen. These shares, which represent the number of pounds available to catch, can be caught at any time throughout the year.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council included two features of the catch share program – observer coverage and economic data collection. They did this to ensure the program's integrity by enhancing individual vessel accountability, enhancing data quality, and providing annual surveys of economic and conservation benefits.
Fisheries Observers Requirement
All vessels participating in the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program are required to carry a National Marine Fisheries Service-certified observer during all fishing trips. An observer is an independent field biologist who monitors commercial fishing activities by collecting and recording at-sea catch data. The Northwest Fisheries Science Center Observer Program:
- Trains, certifies, and equips catch share observers.
- Ensures data quality.
- Stores, maintains, and analyzes data collected by observers.
Catch Share observers collect the following information:
- Fishing activity, including areas and depths fished, and gear set and retrieval times.
- Catch estimates, including the amount of each species discarded.
- Data on individual fish, such as length, weight, and sex.
- Bycatch of protected species like marine mammals and seabirds.
The Trawl Catch Share Program requires one-hundred percent at-sea observer coverage, in order to account for all catch of IFQ species/species groups. We use observer data to account for all IFQ discards, including the mandatory discarding of Pacific halibut. Observer data, combined with landings data, enables fishermen to track their individual quotas and for managers to monitor the fishery's progress.
Catch Share Observers and Non-Catch Share Observers
Observer training operations highlight the differences between the catch share and non-catch share sectors. We train catch share observers to follow the regulations governing the tracking of quotas and the retention of fish.
Catch Share observers are deployed on:
- All vessels participating in the Shore-based Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) program, including hake and non-hake groundfish trawl and non-trawl vessels (excluding shoreside hake vessels that use electronic monitoring)
- All motherships participating in the at-sea hake fishery
- All mothership catcher-vessels participating in the at-sea hake fishery (except vessels that use electronic monitoring)
- All catcher-processors participating in the at-sea hake fishery
Non-Catch Share observers are deployed in the following fisheries/sectors:
- Limited Entry Sablefish Endorsed Fixed Gear
- Limited Entry Non-Sablefish Endorsed Fixed Gear
- Open Access Nearshore Fixed Gear (Oregon and California)
- Open Access Fixed Gear (Washington, Oregon, California)
- Open Access California Halibut Trawl (California)
- Open Access Pink Shrimp Trawl (Washington, Oregon, and California)
- Open Access Ridgeback Prawn Trawl (California)
- Open Access Sea Cucumber Trawl (California)
- IPHC Pacific Halibut Directed
Steps to Get a Catch Share Observer
- Vessel contracts with an observer provider (see list below).
- Vessel informs the observer provider when fishing is scheduled.
- Observer is deployed by observer provider to vessel, vessels, or port.
- Vessel fishes with a certified observer.*
- Vessel remains in contact with the observer provider to ensure observer coverage on future trips.
*All vessels participating in the Shorebased IFQ Program that do not use electronic monitoring must carry a NMFS-certified observer on each trip until all fish from that trip have been offloaded. All vessels greater than 125 feet participating in the MS Co-op Program or C/P Co-op Program must carry two NMFS-certified observers.
Jon McVeigh, Observer Program Manager