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FMA Observer Program Activities in 2010

see caption
Fishery observer Jason Wright measures crab. Photo credit Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

In 2010, 601 observers were trained, briefed, and equipped for deployment to vessels and processing facilities operating in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries. These observers collected data onboard 263 vessels and at 18 processing facilities for a total of 35,263 observer days. This is only a small reduction in effort from 35,681 observer days in 2009.

New observer candidates are required to complete a 3-week training class with 120 hours of scheduled class time and additional tutelage by training staff as necessary. In 2010, the Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis (FMA) Division’s Observer Program provided training for 18 new observers in Seattle and 80 new observers in Anchorage through a contract with the University of Alaska.

Returning observers are required to attend an annual 4-day briefing class prior to their first deployment each calendar year. Prior to subsequent deployments, all observers must attend a 1-day, 2-day, or 4-day briefing; the length of the briefing each observer attends is dependent on that individual’s needs. FMA staff briefed 289 observers in Seattle and 214 observers in Anchorage. The 2010 workforce comprised 16% new observers and 84% experienced observers. This was an increase in returning observers when compared to 2009 when 61% of the workforce comprised experienced observers.

After each deployment, observers meet with a staff member for debriefing to finalize the data collected. There were 163 debriefings in Anchorage and, due to a larger debriefing staff, 472 debriefings in Seattle. Note that the values for the numbers of briefings and debriefings do not represent a count of individual observers as many observers deploy multiple times throughout the year.
In 2010 FMA implemented electronic capture of the bird data collected by observers. In addition to collecting data from tagged birds and any birds that occur in their sample, observers document sightings of short-tailed albatross, red-legged kittiwakes, Steller’s eiders, spectacled eiders, marbled murrelets, and Kittlitz’s murrelets. Previously these data were recorded on paper forms only.

As 2010 drew to a close, staff put the final touches on the database technology used to track the inventory of all observer sampling gear. Each observer is issued sampling gear worth approximately $1,800. Ensuring that the gear is returned to our inventory is important to keeping equipment costs down. Sampling gear is issued primarily in Seattle and Anchorage, with supplemental and replacement gear available in our field offices located in Dutch Harbor and Kodiak. The database, known as the Observer Gear Inventory System (OGIS), allows us to track when and where gear is issued or returned as well as the status of the gear (e.g., deployed, eligible for deployment, turned in, out for repair). Since 2007 we have used a preliminary version of OGIS to track Personal Locator Beacons issued to observers (AFSC Quarterly Report Oct-Nov-Dec 2006) and starting in 2011 OGIS will be used to track the inventory of all observer sampling gear.

By Allison Barns with contributions from Mike Moon and Ren Narita


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