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Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis Division (FMA)

FMA Observer Program Activities in 2012

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Oct-Nov-Dec 2012
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For the 2012 fishing year, 760 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 264 fixed gear and trawl vessels and at 22 processing facilities for a total of 44,710 observer days. This is slight decrease from our record high of 45,188 observer days in 2011.

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 2012, the Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis (FMA) Division provided training for 168 new observers compared to 225 new observers in 2011. 

Returning observers are required to attend an annual 4-day briefing class prior to their first deployment each calendar year.  These briefings provide observers with updates regarding their responsibilities in the new fishing year.  Each deployment can last up to 90 days.  Prior to subsequent deployments within the year, returning observers attend a refresher briefing; the length of the briefing is dependent on that individual’s training needs.  In 2012, FMA staff provided briefings for 549 observers.

After each deployment, observers meet with a FMA staff member for debriefing to review the observer’s work and finalize the data collected.  There were 56 debriefings in Anchorage completed by 4 FMA staff and 480 debriefings in Seattle completed by 15 FMA staff.  Many observers deploy multiple times throughout the year and, as a result, debrief after each contract followed by a briefing for redeployment. Thus, the total number of briefings and debriefings for 2012 does not represent a count of individual observers.

Each new year brings some degree of change to observer data collections as part of our efforts to meet the various needs of the end data users.  In preparation for this year’s fishing season the 2013 Observer Sampling Manual was updated to reflect changes of how data will be collected, as well as including sampling protocol for new data collection projects. The manual is available on the FMA website.

pearl rojas sam zmolek rob barnett
From left to right: Pearl Rojas, Sam Zmolek, and Rob Barnett of the FMA Division..

One of the highlights of 2012 was filling vacant staff positions at our field offices in Dutch Harbor and Kodiak, Alaska.  Pearl Rojas and Sam Zmolek began working at our Dutch Harbor field office in August, providing support 7 days a week to observers deployed during the pollock and Pacific cod fishing season last fall and winter. Rob Barnett began working at our Kodiak field office at the end of December, providing full-time staff support for observers who began to deploy in the 2013 fishing season. All three of our new FMA field staff have had extensive experience as observers deployed on fixed-gear and trawl vessels as well as sampling at processing plants. Our Dutch Harbor and Kodiak field staff will be a valuable resource for current observers deploying in 2013 and future years.


By Allison Barns and Ren Narita.

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