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Fisheries Observation Science on the West Coast

Science to support sustainable U.S. West Coast fisheries.

An observer on deck of a ship during a pink shrimp trawl

We train, deploy, and support approximately 85 independently-contracted field biologists annually. These scientists, or observers, collect data onboard U.S. commercial fishing vessels that target or incidentally catch West Coast groundfish species.

Our training teams provide observers with rigorous instruction in fish identification, catch sampling, and vessel safety, so they can work alongside the crew of commercial vessels to collect high-quality data for management purposes.

While at sea, observers collect information on fishing operations, catch composition, protected species interactions, and, most importantly, the amount of bycatch incidentally discarded. Observers also collect biological samples from the catch used to identify and improve our understanding of West Coast species.

We ensure that the data collected by observers are of the highest quality possible by
implementing rigorous quality assurance and control processes. 

Our team produces a variety of high-profile data products and reports to inform fisheries
management and science. Fishery scientists and managers use our data and analyses for stock assessments, management decisions, in-season quota tracking, and scientific research.

The Fisheries Observation Science Program encompasses the At-Sea Hake Observer Program and the West Coast Groundfish Observer Program.


  • Debriefing and Training
  • Logistical Coordination
  • Analysis

Our Research

Catch Shares

West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Observer Program

Data Collection

Overview of Observed West Coast Fishery Sectors

West Coast Groundfish and At-Sea Hake Observer Data Collection, Quality Control, Training, and Sampling Manuals

Data Analysis and Products 

West Coast Groundfish Observer Program Data Processing

West Coast Fishery Observer Bycatch and Mortality Reports 

West Coast Observer Program Outreach Materials   


Fisheries Observation Science Program Contacts

Last updated by Northwest Fisheries Science Center on September 21, 2020