The commercial groundfish and halibut fisheries in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, and Gulf of Alaska are world renowned. The fish stocks are among the most abundant and best managed resources on the planet. The North Pacific Observer Program plays a vital role in the conservation and management of these fisheries which make-up approximately 60% of all landings in the United States. AIS has provided observer services to NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s North Pacific Observer Program under several concurrent federal contracts since 2012. In 2016 AIS was issued a permit by NOAA Fisheries authorizing the company to provide observers to commercial fishing vessels and shore side facilities requiring 100% observer coverage.
Following a three week NOAA Fisheries directed training in Seattle, WA our Observers deploy aboard commercial fishing vessels operating out of over 40 coastal communities across 2,500 miles of Alaska’s coastline from Ketchikan to Adak for up to 90 days at a time. AIS Observers safely collect high quality data and samples and monitor the activities on board commercial fishing vessels operating in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. and the timely delivery of detailed catch and effort information and biological samples.
Staff include a fulltime Project Manager (PM) and Assistant who work from our Seattle office located less than 3 miles from the NOAA campus on Sand Point Way and 7 miles from Fishermen’s Terminal. An Observer Operations Manager, Field Coordinators, and an Administrative Assistant work from offices located in Anchorage and Kodiak, AK. The team provides 24/7 support to our observers, the commercial fishing industry and NOAA staff.
The North Pacific Observer Program experiences significant spatial and temporal fluctuations in fishing effort and thus high variability in staffing needs. To ensure that contract deliverables are met AIS maintains a pool of ~ 60 certified employees to draw from throughout the year. We have managed high employee retention by offering exceptional support as well as competitive pay and benefits.
AIS also monitors a call center 7 days a week from 0600 to 2200. The call center is used by the industry to declare their intent to fish in advance and determines which trips will need to be observed through an online portal (Observer declare and Deploy, ODDS) developed and managed by NMFS. The ODDS portal randomly selects vessels for observer coverage. Since 2015 AIS has received approximately 19,800 calls in support of ODDS.