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The complexity of an observer programme should be assessed and decided by the Fisheries Administrator in accordance with the needs of the State and the level of competence of the staff available. As with fisheries management, each observer programme should be custom designed for the State. The following, therefore, is a listing of elements and some detail on the lecture content for observer training which can be drawn from as required by the Fisheries Administrator in the design of the programme.

If it is assumed that observers will be employed by the State, or a third party acting on behalf of the State, and they will be used for data collection and advice to the vessel master only, with no enforcement powers, then the following could comprise elements for their training.

Material presented here draw heavily on the FFA and Canadian experiences. These have been relatively good experiences, but it has been found that without the Government commitment to take the observer programme seriously, it can be a very abused fisheries management tool.

Problems which can be encountered include hiring practices, poor work practices, lack of commitment, lack of funding received at the programme level and lack of basic educational skills. The personal integrity of the observers is an important factor, as fabricated data sets, if used, can distort the fishery management advice and hence impact very negatively on the fish stock assessments. These points are brought out to note the requirement for full government commitment and support for this programme, if it is to succeed. This is not a programme that is appropriate for all countries, and where this is the case, it should not be used.


F2.1 Role of Observer

The role of the observer will be stressed as such, i.e. observers may only observe, record and report. The methods by which each of the aforementioned is accomplished will be addressed. It will be emphasized that part of the reporting requirements is to advise the master of irregularities.

The appropriate regulations concerning observer safety and rights will be addressed for both foreign and domestic vessels. The intent of these regulations will be explained.

In an introductory lecture on the duties of an observer, the two principal aspects of the job should be emphasized, namely:

The fact that each of these basic principles is complementary to the other will be explained. The basic tools - observing, recording and reporting - will be emphasized.

F2.2 Introduction to Fisheries to be Observed

A brief lecture on the fisheries to be covered by fisheries observers will be given noting the fish species and common gear used to catch these fishes. This will be broken down into national and international fishing authorized in the zone.

F2.3 Introduction to Fisheries Laws

These sessions are pertinent if the observer is hired to monitor compliance of the vessel and crew with the national fisheries legislation. The sessions would be structured to cover, in detail, the various acts and regulations for fisheries with particular emphasis on areas of concern for fisheries management. Some of the subjects would include:

These sessions will also address the problem areas in the fisheries with respect to compliance with fisheries laws. These could include misreporting in the logbooks through misrepresentation of the conversion of fish from product weight, or fish reduction, back to whole, round weights; area violations; double book-keeping of catches, one for the inspector and the real one for the master; discarding and dumping.

F2.4 Catch Estimation

This session is to note the various catch estimation procedures available to the fisheries official/observer to verify the actual catch of the vessel. It will also note the difficulties of estimating when mixed species are involved.


i. A brief introduction as to the importance of estimating catches as accurately as possible, explaining that the estimate of total catch is the most reliable estimate and that species in the least quantities should be subtracted from the total catch with the remainder assigned to the species in the greatest abundance.

ii. Emphasize the importance of accurate estimates in relation to monitoring the vessel's catch recording/reporting practices.

b) Total Catch Estimation techniques are discussed:

i. Codend estimation once on deck, highlighting the use of strengthening straps.

ii. Utilizing the bunker which holds a known quantity which can be determined by interview.

iii. Use of baskets to determine a density figure applied with a measurement of the bunker.

iv. Crew member estimates

i) caution on estimating of catch in processed weight,

ii) caution on the possibility of misleading information,

iii) comparison of icer's figures to logbook's figures in relation to determining whether dressed or round weights recorded.

c) Species Composition Estimates:

i. Utilization of percentage estimate while catch is being dumped.

ii. An actual estimate of weight in codend when species are of small quantities during dumping of codend.

iii. An estimate based on how many baskets that species would fill, while being dumped, compared to what a basket of that species would weigh.

iv. Observation of the catch being processed know what percentage of catch has been processed and compare it to the percent estimate of species observed to have been processed and extrapolate back to total catch.

v. Observation of catch culled in factory.

d) Verification Techniques:

i. Bunker capacity density
ii. Crew member estimates
iii. Icer's figures/processed fish

e) Discard/Reduction Estimates:

i. Weighing of all fish
ii. Weight of fish/time period/processing time

F2.5 Conversion Factors

1) The definition of a conversion factor as associated with the fishing industry will be explained. The source of conversion factors to be used will be discussed.

2) Symbols such as pies will be applied using the percent (100%) concept in order that individuals may understand how a conversion factor is derived.

3) Given a known quantity that can be converted back to a whole (100%) by utilizing a conversion factor, what percentage would be nonutilized material.

4) The concept of the already compensated for material which was not utilized, being produced as a by product thereby not requiring conversion will be put forward. The pie concept will be used.

5) Finally this will all be drawn together by substituting the pie for a fish undergoing processing.

F2.6 Gear Type

This training is focused on the identification of various fishing gear, their component parts and how to measure the parts to ensure compliance with fisheries laws, if there are such, pertaining to mesh size.

1) A brief discussion on the importance of being able to identify gear types and component parts to ensure compliance with the authority in the fishing licence.

2) Examples of component parts of trawls will be shown by utilizing diagrams and a model with a brief explanation of the purpose of each component given. Modifications will also be discussed at this time.

3) Diagrams of various gear types will be shown highlighting the differences between gear types. Distinctions will be discussed.

4) Utilizing a diagram and a model, indicate what measurements are necessary to ensure the fishing gear is measured in a fashion acceptable to the courts of the land.

F2.7 Introduction to Navigation

Part of every observer's training is to know where the vessel is fishing. This mini-session on navigation will assist the observer in this regard.

1) Latitude and longitude will be explained as to the orientation on a chart. The component parts will be shown: degrees, minutes and seconds, explaining the significance.

2) Basic plotting of a position will be shown with each individual having to plot several positions.

3) Distance travelled between points in relation to speed and time will be discussed.

F2.8 Biological Sampling Methods

This would be a lecture on biological sampling methods highlighting proper sample collection.

a) Random samples
b) Stratified samples
c) Combined samples
d) Processed samples
e) Discard samples
f) Reduction samples

F2.9 Species Identification

Every observer needs to know the identity of the species which are being fished in the country's waters. There needs to be at least one session to ensure the observers are competent at species identification.

F2.10 Sampling Techniques and Requirements

Where it is decided that observers will also be utilized to take biological samples for the resource assessment activities of the stock assessment personnel, the individual will need to be trained in various sampling techniques and standards in accordance with acceptable scientific procedures. Some of these are noted here for reference.

1) The actual types of samples taken in relation to their importance in the overall sampling scheme of the State will be noted.

a) directed species
b) bycatch species
c) reduction
d) discard
e) otoliths
f) specific requirements

2) Numbers of individuals comprising a sample will be addressed.

3) Sample selection will be reiterated.

4) Length frequencies will be discussed with demonstrations.

5) An actual length frequency will be done by each candidate.

6) Sexing of fish will be demonstrated. Each candidate will obtain hands-on experience.

7) Otolith collection will be demonstrated on various species. Hands-on experience will be obtained.

8) Morphological requirements will be discussed and demonstrated. Hands-on experience will be obtained.

9) It will be emphasized that full morphologies are required while taking otoliths and it will be stressed that during morphologies all information with the exception of collecting the otoliths is required.

F2.11 Logbooks

The fishing records of the activities in the country's fisheries waters are the only real written record of events. Observers must be familiar with all aspects of fishing records to ensure they are being completed correctly. This includes ensuring all the data is being recorded regularly and accurately. Such data might be:

1. Date, licence number, activity, position, time, depth, gear, mesh size, retained and discard estimates by species.

2. Format for fishing sets by gear and the correct times.

3. Licence number, vessel name, side number, date and the proper entry of species by product form.

4. The proper determination of meal produced from offal, considering product produced, will be explained. The lecture will consider individual species and product forms produced. The following approach will be used:

a) Identify what products have yielded waste that will go to meal. Emphasize that products which are frozen round do not yield offal.

b) Has any of the waste material been utilized to produce a by-product? Identification of some of these products.

c) Convert all product forms to round that have produced waste that will go to meal.

d) From the total round weight determined in step (c) subtract the product weights of all products that have been converted to round. Also subtract the weight of any material identified in step (b) as having been produced as a by-product.

e) This is now the total round weight of waste material that will go to meal. This figure divided by the fishmeal conversion factor provided by the vessel will give the amount of meal (product weight) that will be produced.

5. Determination of round fish produced as meal will also be discussed.

a) It will be noted that estimates of round fish will often be utilized by the vessel to arrive at this figure.

b) The utilization of appropriate conversion factor for meal production will be explained. The product weight can then be converted back to round weight.

c) The fact that excess meal production must be reported as round fish to meal will be discussed.

6. Problem Areas Areas where misreporting can occur will be discussed. Specifically the recording of estimates for kept and bycatch species, area of capture and start position will be covered.

F2.12 Documentation of Irregularities

The three places in which information pertaining to infractions are documented, and the purpose of each, will be discussed:

1) Notebook purposes:

a) to aid in the monitoring process;
b) to aid in report writing;
c) to aid in accurate testimony;

Ongoing entries should be made at the first possible instant.

2) Observer Diary purpose is to provide a detailed chronological documentation of trip events, used to assess situation and decide whether or not to proceed with charges. Entries are made at regular intervals (i.e. each evening).

3) Observer Trip Report purpose is to provide a concise reference to the irregularities. Entries are made throughout the trip and at trip end.

4) Documentation Rules for the notebook will be addressed and explained. The contents of the documentation of an irregularity will also be discussed (answering the questions who, what, where, why, and how, along with extraneous information such as weather). Personal information or opinions should not be recorded).

F2.13 Observer Trip Report

The most important document from the observer is the trip report and as such it should be as complete as possible. The following are some of the areas which Fisheries Administrators may wish to include in the requirements for their observers in their final trip reports.

Vessel Information
Daily Trip Summary
Sampling Inventory
Fishing Pattern
Fishing Operations
Trip Summary
Observer Activity
Comparison of Observer Estimates & Vessel's Fishing Log
Vessel Sighting
Unique Areas
Hold capacity

N.B: This is only one example of possible observer training scenarios. All modules may not be ideal to address the fisheries management situation in each case. Each Fisheries Administrator can pick and choose various modules appropriate to the country's fisheries and adapt them as required.

[128] For a more extensive review of observer training programmes, see Davies and Reynolds (2002).

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