Fishery Observer Program

Fishery observer programs provide a unique opportunity to collect data about a species from the habitat in which they live. Fishery observers are trained to collect biological samples from incidentally killed marine mammals. The suite of data collected includes species identification, gender, and total body length, as well as samples of skin for genetics, gonads for reproductive status determination, stomachs for documenting prey, teeth for age, and the skeleton for morphological studies.

The NMFS West Coast Region monitors fishery bycatch through their observer program. The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer . SWFSC processes biological samples collected from marine mammals, cetaceans and pinnipeds, from the gillnet fisheries that operate off the California coast. Observers are placed on about 20% of all fishing trips and are instructed to sample marine mammals that are accidentally killed in gillnets. Imposed time/area closures to protect turtle species have resulted in reduced incidental marine mammal takes. Short-beaked common dolphin are the most frequently taken species in the fishery, but since the observer program started in 1990, most of the cetacean species living off the coast have been entangled in gillnets including sperm whales, fin whales and several beaked whale species.



Last modified: 5/9/2018