Observer Program

The Fisheries Observer Program is responsible for debriefing longline observers to document interactions of all protected species, identify and enumerate fish catches and bycatch (unintended catch), and collect various requested samples for life history studies.

An observer measuring a bigeye tuna

Program staff, working very closely with the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC), use observer data to calculate catch and bycatch rates, calculate official estimates (including protected species interactions), and produce technical reports. Scientists with PIFSC analyze biological samples collected by observers.

Through an amendment to the pelagic fishery management plan established under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, all shallow-set, Hawai‘i-based longline vessels targeting pelagic swordfish are required to have an observer onboard 100% of the time. The deep-set longline fisheries targeting tunas in Hawai‘i and American Samoa, on the other hand, should have 20% observer coverage.

Protected species that interact with the fisheries include sea turtles, especially loggerhead (Caretta caretta), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and green turtles (Chelonia mydas); seabirds, including Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) and black-footed albatross (P. nigripes); and, to a lesser extent, a few whale and dolphin species.