Observer Program

Through an amendment to the pelagic fishery management plan established under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, mandatory observers are required aboard Hawaii based pelagic longline vessels targeting swordfish (shallow set, 100% coverage) and tunas (deep set, 20% coverage) and American Samoa based longline vessels targeting tuna (deep set, 20% coverage).

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

The observer program is responsible for fielding longline observers to obtain data on incidental sea turtle take and collect fishing effort data. The observers document interactions of all protected species, tally fish that are kept and discarded, and process selected specimens for life history information.

The Pacific Islands Region uses observer data to calculate official estimates (e.g. protected species interactions) and produce technical reports. The Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center receives biological samples for analysis.

In 2014, the PIRO Observer Program celebrated its 20th year of service! Learn more here.