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Data Collected by Groundfish Observers

All PDF files on this site can be viewed using Adobe Acrobat Reader software or free tools for the visually disabled.

The FMA database consists of various data collected by fishery biologists while deployed on board commercial fishing vessels or at shoreside processing plants participating in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries. Data collection activities began in 1973 and they continue to date. While deployed at their assignments, observers collect data on the catch size, fishing locations, catch composition, length frequencies, age structures, marine mammal interactions, and a variety of research projects. The specific data components collected are outlined in the Groundfish Observer Manual. Once received by FMA, these data are extensively checked for quality and are then entered onto an Oracle database and made available to authorized staff.

Those interested in delving deeper are invited to read the Comments regarding the Table format on the At-Sea computers, Comments regarding the Table format on the AFSC server, and the utility functions on the AFSC server (all documents are available in pdf format).

The FMA uses a series of species codes to identify biological data records, including species composition. A list of FMA codes translated to "industry" codes which are used for in-season fisheries management is now available. (This file will open in Microsoft Excel, but it must be saved to your computer in order to sort it.)

Also available are the schemas of the At-Sea System Diagram as a pdf file and the schema of the AFSC Server System Diagram as a pdf file. These schema show how the tables containing observer data from 2008 and beyond inter-connect with each other. A third schema has been designed as a pdf file for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, At-Sea Bird Extension. This schema shows how the At-sea take of birds inter-connects with the other observer data.

Those interested in detailed domestic data from 1986-2007 should view the Domestic Fishing Table Diagram as a pdf and should read the table comments and column comments of the individual tables (found in domestic_tables.htm). Those interested in data collected aboard foreign fishing vessels from 1973-1990 should view the Foreign Fishing Table Diagram as a pdf and should read the table comments and column comments of the individual tables (found in foreign_tables.htm).

All of these data are collected cooperatively from private commercial fishing interests and are protected from general release by confidentiality statutes. This protects the private business interests of industry while still providing NOAA Fisheries with the detailed information necessary to effectively manage the ecosystem. The staff authorized to use these data include NOAA Fisheries' scientists and managers participating in a broad range of activities including:

  • stock assessments,
  • marine mammal interactions,
  • food habits,
  • fish age analyses,
  • economic analyses,
  • fishery management plan development,
  • in-season fishery management.

The data are also shared with other authorized users in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and North Pacific Fishery Management Council staff with similar responsibilities.

Aggregations of observer data which protect confidentiality are periodically developed and released to the public. Observer data serve as essential building blocks for numerous public analyses, reports, and scientific documents.

Our Data-Spatial Maps page allows visitors use of the aggregated observer data to create maps. These maps are designed to provide a better understanding of where groundfish are caught in the Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.

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