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Feature: At- Sea Monitoring of Commercial North Pacific Groundfish Catches:
A Range of Observer Sampling Challenges

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see caption
Fish on a catcher processor are shoveled into the factory by the vessel crew.

EACH YEAR MORE THAN 300 FISHERIES OBSERVERS ARE DEPLOYED INTO THE ALASKA GROUNDFISH FISHERIES,
spending in total more than 35,000 days at sea. Deployment of observers is broadly based on the size of the vessel, gear type, and the fishery in which the vessel participates.

Data collected by observers in the Alaska fisheries provide extensive, high quality data to fisheries managers, stock assessment scientists, and researchers. These data are available to NOAA Fisheries staff in near real-time as observers transmit their data daily while they are at sea or weekly at the completion of their trip. The sampling environment across the Alaskan fishing fleet is extremely varied, such that each vessel is a unique sampling situation, and observers themselves are responsible for tailoring the sampling designs they employ to the specific situations that they face.

Samples are randomly selected in the majority of situations, and if several random samples cannot be taken, then some level of randomization is incorporated into the sampling design. The sample fractions that observers can achieve are dependent on the sampling environment and the available tools. Observers are trained to maximize the sampling fractions (and number of samples) within the limitations without compromising the data they collect. As a result, the data collected by observers is of the highest quality achievable given the sampling situations presented and the sampling designs that are available to be used.

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