U. S. North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program
During the first quarter of 2002, 233 observers were trained, briefed,
and equipped for deployment to fishing and processing vessels and shoreline
plants in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands. They sampled
aboard 264 fishing and processing vessels and at 20 shoreline processing
plants. The observers were trained or briefed in various locations. The
University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Observer Training Center trained 29
first time observers, and another 131 observers with prior experience were
briefed at this site. The AFSC Observer Program in Seattle briefed another
62 observers who had prior experience. Eleven observers were excused from
briefing because they had just completed a cruise successfully and were
returning immediately to the field. The first quarter 2002 observer workforce
thus comprised 12% new observers and 88% experienced observers.
The program conducted a total of 110 debriefings during the first quarter
of 2002. Fifty-four debriefings were held in Anchorage, 1 in Dutch Harbor,
1 in Kodiak, and 54 in Seattle.
Changes to Observer Program Regulations Undergo Public Review
At the February 2002 meeting, the NPFMC recommended releasing for public
review the draft regulatory analysis addressing various program issues.
The issues addressed in the regulatory analysis fall under four main areas:
1) extending the programs implementing regulations past their 31 December
2002 expiration date; 2) revising and strengthening the regulations which
outline the duties and responsibilities of the observer providers; 3) granting
NMFS the authority to place NMFS staff and other qualified persons, aboard
groundfish and halibut vessels and at groundfish plants and 4) changing
some aspects of the observer and observer provider certification and decertification
process to make them compliant with the Administrative Procedures Act.
Final action on the regulatory package is scheduled for the April 2002
Program Database Modernization
The Observer Program is developing an Internet, web-based, client-server
application for its NORPAC database. This will speed up connections to
the database from remote field office sites in Alaska and will simplify
database management and maintenance. In addition, the program is developing
a custom-made gear inventory application that utilizes barcode scanning
and interfaces with the NORPAC database. The inventory system creates
a more accurate and efficient system for purchasing, dispersing, and tracking
Observer Safety at Sea
Program managers met with representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)
Marine Safety Office to develop ways in which the program and the USCG
can work together to increase observer safety at sea. Discussions centered
around observer safety training, the USCG vessel safety decal system, and
improving communications between observers, program staff, and the USCG.
The meeting helped lay the groundwork for a written Memorandum of Understanding
between the USCG and the program will outline an interagency working relationship
fostering increased safety awareness and protection for observers at sea.
By Bob Maier.
quarterly Jan-March 2002 sidebar
Auke Bay Lab