Fisheries Monitoring Programs

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service funds a number of Fisheries Observer Programs on the East Coast, West Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii, as part of its National Fisheries Observer Program.

The NOAA Fisheries Service is part of the Department of Commerce. In each region of the country, NOAA Fisheries contracts with consulting companies to manage the FOP in that region.

A.I.S., Inc. was originally awarded the contract for the Northeast Region Fisheries Observer Program in 2002. In 2005, A.I.S. was re-awarded a 5 year contract for the Fisheries Observer Program. Currently, A.I.S. is contracted with NOAA Fisheries to provide fisheries observers for the North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program and at-sea monitors for the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program. A.I.S. is also an approved Industry Funded Scallop Program observer provider in the Northeast.

The objectives of the Fisheries Observer Program are to obtain data from commercial fishing operations in order to estimate stock levels, protect endangered species and manage the fisheries.

Data obtained includes:

  • estimates of catch and discards of fishery resources
  • biological sampling of the catch
  • estimates of incidental takes of protected species
  • monitoring of conservation gear
  • monitoring of experimental fisheries
  • economic information on revenue, costs, gear performance, and characteristics

A.I.S. works closely with the NOAA Fisheries Service, to train, manage and deploy observers and at-sea monitors. Observers and at-sea monitors are hired by A.I.S., trained and certified by NOAA Fisheries, then deployed to their assigned ports/stations to complete sea days on commercial fishing vessels. A.I.S. Area and Field Coordinators supervise, support, and monitor the observers and at-sea monitors. NOAA Fisheries decides how many observer sea days are required by month, port, gear, and fisheries, based on requests from the NOAA Fisheries Population Dynamics, Protected Species, and Social Science groups.

The observers and at-sea monitors contact the fishing vessel captains and make arrangements to observe on their boats. When the trip is completed the observer reviews his/her data logs and sends them to the Fisheries Observer Training Center. Trips may be entered and uploaded electronically or submitted on paper logs depending on each programs’ requirements. The trips are logged in and distributed to debriefers and editors to review the trip logs and look for discrepancies, missing data or errors. Debriefers and editors may contact the observer or at-sea monitor to clear up any questions regarding the data.

From the data editor, the logs go to the data entry staff. They enter the trip data into a specially designed computer and database. After each month’s data is entered, a series of audit programs are run to check for errors or anomalies. When all errors are corrected, and anomalies accounted for, NOAA Fisheries personnel review and approve the data. Then it is loaded into the main database and made available to the fisheries scientists.