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Resource Ecology & Ecosystem Modeling

Observer Seabird Training and the Collection of Seabird Data

AFSC scientist Shannon Fitzgerald and Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) representative Jane Dolliver traveled to Anchorage, Alaska, in June to meet with Kathy Kuletz and Tamara Zeller of the Migratory Birds Management Group, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), to discuss observer training and the collection of seabird data. COASST was chosen by the AFSC's Coordinated Seabird Studies Group to provide the observer seabird training sessions in Seattle, Washington, during 2010.

The AFSC is exploring this training option over in-house training in order to more effectively provide services to clients on a broad range of topics. By bringing in a team of experts in training of seabird identification (especially those seabirds recovered as bycatch) AFSC staff can focus resources on other products. An important step, however, is to ensure that the training provided to observers at each location, Seattle and Anchorage, are consistent. In Anchorage, Zeller has provided training for several years (with Kuletz handling those duties previously). The June meeting was valuable in comparing presentation materials and approaches and coordinating those efforts.

This was also an excellent opportunity for Fitzgerald and Kuletz to meet and discuss the Seabird Observer Notes aspect of the program. Responding to requests from the USFWS in 1992, while improved seabird monitoring and observer training was being developed, the Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis (FMA) Division's Observer Program has had observers record notes and observations outside of the normal bycatch information captured in their species composition and other standard forms.

This has led to much interesting information and has formed the basis for additional work, such as the ongoing efforts to further quantify seabird mortality on trawl vessels. Through an excellent effort by the FMA Division, those notes have now been moved into a format where they are captured electronically and managed in the Observer Program's relational database.

By Shannon Fitzgerald

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