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Observer Requirements, Training, Duties & Contractor
Biologists employed as fishery observers in the PIR must meet the following mandatory qualifications:
Possess a Bachelor's degree with a major in one of the biological sciences from an accredited four year college or university with at least 30 semester hours in any combination of scientific or technical courses such as biology, chemistry, statistics, entomology, animal husbandry, physics, or mathematics, of which at least 6 semester hours are in marine science or fisheries.
A bachelor's degree in a major other than biological sciences, may be considered on a case-by-case basis at the sole discretion of the Government, for substitution of the biological science degree.
One year of specialized experience, provided the work was performed at an acceptable level, may be substituted for the 6 semester hours of marine science or fisheries course work. Additional specialized experience may, at the sole discretion of the Government, be substituted for a portion of the educational requirement on a case-by-case basis, when it is in the best interest of the Government to do so. The specialized experience must have been in the field of fisheries and include functions such:
- observing ocean-fishing activities;
- recording data on sea turtle and marine mammal sighting and fishing activities;
- tallying incidental take of sea turtles, sea birds, and marine mammals from fishing platforms;
- collecting biological specimens from postmortem animals; and
- entering collected data into a database using computers.
Individuals which have previously (within a one (1) year period) successfully completed the NMFS longline observer training and who currently are certified under the NMFS longline observer program may be eligible for Hawaii longline observer work;
On a case-by-case basis, individuals(s) accepted by the Government to attend the longline training courses, who successfully complete, pass, and become certified as longline observers or bottomfish observers;
Individuals that have successfully passed a two and one half week pre-training Marine Options Program (MOP) of the University of Hawaii (Alu Like) and also successfully passed the NMFS three (3) week observer training class with a score of 85% or higher.
Additional mandatory requirements for all applicants are:
- Successfully passing a Federal Background Check
- CPR and First Aid Certification
- Successfully passing a Physical Fitness Exam
The 3 week training course will cover the following topics.
- Safety at Sea & First Aid
- Species Identification
- Protected Species Data & Handling
- Fishing Gear Characteristics
- Data Forms, Data Collection and Data Entry
The main duty of observers is to collect data. The data collected by observers includes basic biological information from target & non-target species, catch & discard rates, fishing gear descriptions, catch & interaction rates of sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals, sightings of protected species and the collection of samples & specimens from selected species. Observers also collect valuable economic survey data.
Another important component to the observers duties include outreach to the fishers on some fishing regulations and protected species handling. The goal is to help fishers comply with certain regulations pertaining to bycatch mitigation rules.
Observers also assist on-going research projects by tagging incidentally caught sea turtles and collecting valuable skin biopsies from marine mammals. Observers may also have the chance to participate in the annual Spiny & Slipper lobster tag-recapture cruises in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Observers are frequently employed by regional fishery scientists to work as at-sea data collectors to help monitor experimental fishing techniques.
Observers in the Pacific Islands Longline and Bottomfish Fisheries do not work directly for the Federal Government. Rather they are employed by an observer contractor. The current contractor is Techsea International Inc.