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Pelagic Observer Program
Fishery observers collect catch data from U.S. commercial fishing and processing vessels. Nationwide, nearly 20 different fisheries are monitored by observer programs. NMFS has been using observers to collect fisheries data from 1972 to the present. Observers have monitored fishing activities on all U.S. coasts, collecting data for a range of conservation and management issues.
The SEFSC manages the Pelagic Observer Program (POP). The POP is based out of the SEFSC in Miami, Florida and began in May 1992.
How many pelagic observers are there?
The POP has a corps of 10-12 observers. They observe about 500 longline sets.
Where do the observers work?
POP observers monitor a mobile U.S. pelagic longline fleet ranging from the Grand Banks to Brazil to the Gulf of Mexico while onboard fishing vessels. Vessels range in size from 35-90 feet.
How long do observers stay onboard vessels?
Trips can last from 2 to 45 days. During an average year, the combined observer corps will spend over 900 days total at sea, based on 70-75 vessel trips.
The distance of a longline set can range from 10 to 40 miles fishing from 200 to 1000 baited hooks about 100 yards apart.
Are there observers on every pelagic fishing vessel?
The POP targets an 8% coverage of the vessels based on the fishing effort of the fleet. Observer personnel must be able to endure adverse environmental conditions while at sea. They are trained in sea survival, medical first aid, fish identification, and the collection of biological and statistical data.
What data do pelagic observers records?
POP observers record:
- fish species
- environmental information
How is the information used?
The information collected is used to evaluate the:
- harvest of pelagic fish stocks
- status of pelagic fish stocks
- effectiveness of management measures to control harvest levels
- Observer Office: 1-800-858-0624
- Program Coordinator
- Forms and Instructions from the Training Manual
- Safety Training videos and documents
- National Observer Program (NOP)
- National Observer Program
- Shark Gillnet Observer Program
- Association of Professional Observers
- U.S. Coast Guard Fishing Vessel Safety
- Commercial Shark Fishery Observer Program
- North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program [pdf]
- Northeast Fisheries Science Center-Fisheries Sampling Branch
- Shark Population Assessment Group
Commercial Fishing Links
- National Fisheries Institute
- NMFS Online Permit Shop
- US Coast Guard Public Information Page
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