Fishery Observers: Eyes on the Ocean
Fishery observers are scientists who collect important information about fishing practices by accompanying commercial fishermen at sea.
Observers collect data on the composition and amount of the actual catch brought on board during fishing operations in contrast to landings data, which only records what is brought to port.
On-board fishery observers are an essential step in obtaining accurate scientific knowledge that is needed to promote sustainable fisheries management and fishing activity.
Despite widespread agreement that fishery observer programs are a critical step in controlling bycatch, few programs exist and most existing programs provide insufficient, limited coverage.
Of the approximately 300 federally-managed fisheries, there are only 42 fisheries currently monitored by observers and most of those are significantly underfunded.
Proper fishery management should be based on sound science and accurate information. Yet, for the vast majority of fisheries in the United States, little information exists about what occurs during the course of fishing activities. To collect this data, fishery observer programs are essential.