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Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis Division (FMA)

The National Observer Program Advisory Team Meets at the AFSC

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July-Sept 2012
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Each year 47 different fisheries throughout the nation are monitored by fishery observers deployed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). These observers log over 77,000 observer days collecting fishing effort and catch data from U.S. commercial fishing and processing vessels for a variety of conservation and management concerns. NMFS coordinates observer program management through its Office of Science and Technology/National Observer Program (NOP). The NOP seeks to support regional observer programs and increase their usefulness to the overall goals of the agency. 

The National Observer Program (NOP) was formed in 1999 and is a means for NMFS to address observer issues of national importance. Additionally, the NOP develops policies and procedures to support NMFS observers and observer programs. These policies and procedures address the varied needs of regional observer programs, enhance data quality, and provide consistency in areas of national importance.

The objectives of the NOP are to 1) coordinate the National Observer Program Advisory Team (NOPAT); 2) communicate and advocate the mission of the NOP and each regional observer program; 3) develop and support national standards and policies to create high quality, cost effective, efficient, and productive observer programs; and 4) characterize and qualify the activities and resources of NMFS observer programs and advocate for full support.

The NOPAT is comprised of representatives from each region and each headquarters office. The NOPAT functions to work with the NOP staff to identify issues of national concern, to recommend or establish priorities for national research and problem solving, and to support information collection and program implementation. The NOPAT meets at least twice annually to provide an opportunity for NMFS Observer Program managers from around the country to discuss fiscal and operational issues.

In September, the AFSC was host to the semi-annual NOPAT meeting. A highlight of the meeting was the first in-person meeting of the safety committee, a sub-committee of the NOPAT.  This subcommittee is made up of regional staff appointed by the NOPAT to ensure consistency in safety standards among the different observer programs and to address priorities as directed by the NOPAT. Information covered during this subcommittee meeting was summarized and presented to the NOPAT during their meeting. In addition to regional observer program updates, the meeting touched on vessel safety improvements, electronic monitoring, catch share program updates and the 7th International Fisheries Observer and Monitoring Conference which will be held in Chile in March 2013. The next NOPAT meeting is scheduled for February 2013.

By Allison Barns

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