U.S. North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program
Cold water survival training was provided by the Observer Program as part of its commitment to safety.
The North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program (NPGOP)
emphasizes safety (especially the safety of its staff and observers) and
engaged in several activities associated with safety training during the
second quarter of 2005.
In April, the NPGOP hosted a special session of the
Alaska Marine Safety Education Associationís (AMSEA) Marine Safety
Instructor Training (MSIT) designed specifically for observer safety
trainers. Trainers from three NMFS regions attended the 3-day training
session, which focused on effective safety training techniques and risk
assessment and mitigation. The MSIT class is U.S. Coast Guard approved
and allows NMFS safety trainers to obtain their Standards of Training,
Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) "Train the Trainer" Certificate.
The NPGOP currently has four MSIT certified safety trainers, and the
University of Alaska Anchorageís North Pacific Fisheries Observer
Training Center has an additional five.
The NPGOP provides training to other groups when
resources allow. This quarter, program staff assisted the Northwest
Regionís West Coast Groundfish Observer Program (WCGOP) in training
their new and returning observers and the at-sea hake component of the
WCGOP, providing refresher safety training to experienced observers. In
May, Brian Mason provided a Cold Water Survival class for the Centerís
National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) staff headed for field work.
AFSC scientists often attend the at-sea safety training portion of the
Observer Training Class, but the number of NMML staff needing the class
and the unique work they would be doing justified designing a class to
suit their needs.
Training to avoid potentially hazardous situations
and provide the expertise to properly respond to hazardous situations
that do occur is only one aspect of the NPGOPís commitment to a "safety
first" culture. NPGOP staff are working to increase the safety of
observers and staff at sea by working with National Observer Program
staff on reviewing and commenting on proposed Observer Health and Safety
Regulations and draft NOAA Fisheries Service Observer Safety Training
By Jennifer Ferdinand
The field operations component of the NPGOP also made
advances in safety during the quarter by revising and improving the
NPGOP vessel safety checklist.
Several years ago observers were encouraged to spot
check major safety equipment that vessels are required to maintain.
Between 2001 and 2003 the list of items observers were encouraged to
check evolved into a detailed checklist, and beginning in 2004 observers
were required to document that they examined or verified the major
safety items on the checklist.
Significant improvements were made to the checklist
in 2005, many based on suggestions from NPGOPís stakeholders. Observers
are now required to complete the safety checklist, and vessel operators
are encouraged to participate in this exercise. By completing the
checklist with observers and discussing its components, vessel operators
can satisfy the requirement to provide a safety orientation and
observers have an opportunity to discuss vessel safety before their
voyage. The NPGOP safety checklist is one the most comprehensive in use today.
By Todd Loomis
Information and Monitoring Technologies
The NPGOPís in-season monitoring team reviews all
data communications from observers at sea using the at-sea observer
software application. This application is the Observer Programís link
for receiving up-to-date fishing information from observers. It is also
used for advising observers on sampling protocols to enhance data
quality. Once observer data is received, it is put through a series of
data checks and made available as soon as possible to the Programís
The Observer Program along with the NMFS Alaska
Regional Office is considering future software needs. The process is now
under way to make the regulatory changes for the minimum observer
communication equipment requirements which industry provides for us.
These changes are being designed to take advantage of current technology
and to provide flexibility for potential expansion and change in data
communication requirements. The Observer Program is also upgrading its
database system and providing training to staff to assist them in making
By Shane Leach
Operations and Administration
The Observer Advisory Committee (OAC), a subcommittee
of the NPFMC, met 12-13 May at the AFSC in Seattle. The OAC provides
advice to the Observer Program and recommendations to the NPFMC on
matters pertaining to the Observer Program. At this meeting, the OAC
drafted comments to NMFS and the NPFMC on the Preliminary Draft
Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review for a Fishery
Management Plan Amendment to Establish a New Program for Observer
Procurement and Deployment in the North Pacific. This amendment
addresses changes in the Observer Program structure that are needed to
address several longstanding data quality issues.
The NPFMC met the week of June 1 and reviewed the
draft analysis. The Council also received the report from the OAC and
public testimony and recommended changes in the draft analysis which
will be taken into account in future versions. The Council requested
that the OAC meet prior to Council initial review of and final action on
the analysis. Initial review is scheduled for February 2006. The draft
analysis is available on the NPFMC web site at:
By Martin Loefflad
AFSC Quarterly Research Reports April-June 2005