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Resource Ecology & Fisheries Management  (cont.)

U.S. North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program

During the fourth quarter of 2001, 88 observers were trained, briefed, and equipped for deployment to fishing and processing vessels and shoreside plants in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands. They sampled aboard 180 fishing and processing vessels and at 15 shoreside processing plants. These observers were trained or briefed in two locations. The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Observer Training Center briefed 51 observers with prior experience and 15 first-time observers; while the AFSC Observer Program in Seattle briefed six observers. No observers were briefed at the Observer Program’s field offices in Dutch Harbor and Kodiak during the fourth quarter of 2001. Sixteen observers were excused from
briefing because they had just completed a cruise successfully and were returning immediately to the field. This quarter’s observer workforce thus comprised 17% new observers and 83% experienced observers.

The Observer Program conducted a total of 223 debriefings during the fourth quarter of 2001. Five debriefings were held in Dutch Harbor, 58 in Anchorage, and 160 were held in Seattle.

Observer Program statistics for the year 2001 are as follows:

  • Observers trained or briefed at AFSC = 240
  • Observers trained or briefed at UAA = 506
  • Observers briefed in Kodiak = 8
  • Observers excused from briefing = 58
  • Total observers trained or briefed = 812
  • Individual vessels covered by observers = 335
  • Individual plants covered by observers = 23
  • Percent of observers with prior experience = 83%
  • Observers debriefed in Seattle = 431
  • Observers debriefed in Kodiak = 7
  • Observers debriefed in Dutch Harbor = 8
  • Observers debriefed in Anchorage = 213
  • Total observers debriefed = 659

Highlights of 2001:  Cadre Opens

The Observer Program began full implementation of its Cadre during the first quarter of 2001. Five new employees were hired to join the Cadre in December 2000. They are stationed in new office space in the Federal building annex in Abnchorage, Alaska. The cadre is an inherently flexible unit of employees that can be deployed as needed to ports throughout Alaska. They help to increase the Observer Program’s presence in the field and improve communication among NMFS, observers, and industry. Todd Loomis is the Anchorage field office manager and is responsible for leading the Cadre. 

Safety Training

Observer trainers from each NMFS region gathered at the AFSC in March 2001 for a course on safety training for trainers.  The National Observer Program sponsored three attendees per NMFS region to attend the course, which was designed specifically for teachers of sea safety. The purpose of the course was to ensure that NMFS staff, who are responsible for training fishery observers, have the expertise and resources necessary to provide the best possible safety training for the gear and vessel types they monitor. The class was taught by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association.

Observer Advisory Committee

The Observer Advisory Committee (OAC) of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council NPFMC met at the AFSC in late March to review options that would alleviate areas of concern with the present service delivery model (SMD) for the North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program (NPGOP). A report from the March meeting lists the primary concerns of each representative group including industry, observer, observer contractors, and NMFS.

Conference on Insurance, Liability, and Labor Issues

During 12-14 June, staff from the AFSC Observer Program participated in a conference in Silver Spring, Maryland to discuss
issues dealing with insurance coverage for observers. Conference participants included representatives from all NMFS
regional observer programs, Department of Labor, Department of Commerce, NOAA General Counsel, insurance industry
representatives, labor relation specialists, observers, observer providers, observer representatives as well as other interested

The conference provided all Observer Programs nationwide with guidance on how to better protect their observers with comprehensive insurance coverage plans. It also provided insight into further study and analysis needed for developing a risk management plan for Observer Programs and statutory amendments to define “observers” and clarify their maritime “seaman” status. The conference also underscored the need to inform observers of the various types of insurance currently available to them, specifically, Federal Employee Compensation Insurance.

National Observer Contracting Workshop

The North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program hosted a contracting workshop from 30 July through 3 August 2001. The objective of the workshop was to bring together contracting specialists and representatives from all NMFS observer programs in order to develop contracting standards and improve contract management. Workshop participants included contracting specialists from NOAA’s Western and Eastern Administrative Support Centers, contracting officer’s technical representatives from three NMFS regional offices, a contracting specialist from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and other NMFS Observer Program staff who are involved in writing statements of work or evaluating bids for contracts. 

The emphasis of the workshop was on development of performance-based contracts that address the primary goals of an observer program. These goals were identified as observer coverage, data quality, observer well-being, and observer program integrity. A template for a statement of work, with measurable performance standards, was drafted by the workshop participants.

By Bob Maier.


quarterly Oct-Dec 2001 sidebar Contents


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