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Observer Training Working Group

The success of fisheries observer programs depends largely on effective recruitment, training and development of each observer. Consistent investment in training programs is essential to establish high standards of observer performance and quality data. Mature observer programs with experience in a particular fishery tend to cultivate expertise through well-established training programs and well-known data collection requirements. The training programs and materials produced to support such fishery specific programs get refined and improved over the years. That depth of corporate experience and advanced training materials help to perpetuate success of the observer program.

New and developing observer programs can benefit from access to established knowledge-bases and training resources, through a network of individuals involved in Observer programs internationally, as well as published and online material resources. Examples are listed on the Observer Training Resources table at the end of this section.

Observer recruitment is an area of focus for its impact on training and fisheries management. Effective recruitment of observers is the key to successful observer training programs. Observer programs are advised to plan recruitment based on fishing activity, and apply consistent application and interview processes that contain real world scenarios to better evaluate potential candidates. Internationally, recruiting organizations are not always the same as the training organizations, and can benefit from the shared training resources. For more detailed information on these topics and findings, please refer to the 2007 Observer Training Working Group Terms of Reference.

Training Working Group Mandate
The Training Working Group mandate is to share expertise internationally by:

  • Identifying common training elements.
  • Identifying international recruitment and training standards.
  • Identifying international training resources.
  • Making training curricula and resources available to international observer programs.
  • Establishing a network of observer training and subject matter experts.

Training Working Group Structure
This is a living working group that will continue to operate in-between conferences and is comprised of the following levels:

  • Core Members – responsible for completing inventories, development of suggested guidelines for key elements such as recruitment strategies, training strategies, training curricula and observer development strategies.
  • Auxiliary Members – ensure participation of observers, representatives from all continents and intergovernmental agencies to effectively complete the international program characterization.
  • Subject matter experts – e.g., seabird identification.
  • Subscribers – i.e., the people who use the data to help develop training programs.

Training Working Group Membership


Observer Duties     Species Identification     Observer Program Design


Observer Duties

Groundfish Fisheries Observer Resources Manual (Cananda)

Archipelago Marine Research, Ltd. (email)

West Coast Groundfish Observer Training Manual (USA)

NOAA, NMFS, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program Observer Sampling Manual (USA)

NOAA,NMFS, Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Sea Turtle Observer Manual (USA)

NOAA,NMFS, Southeast Fisheries Science Center

Pelagic Observer Training Manual(USA)

NOAA,NMFS, Southeast Fisheries Science Center

Australian Fisheries Management Authority

AFMA Observer Program external link

Shark Bottom Longline and Drift Gillnet Observer Program Manual

NMFS, South East Shark Observer Program

Scientific Observer Manual(Multi-national)

CCAMLR external link

Biological data collection Manual for Ministry of Fisheries Observers

Ministry of Fishery, NZ
(email- Andrew France)

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Species Identification

Incidental Fish and Invertebrates of British Columbia

Archipelago Marine Research, Ltd. (email)

Fish and Invertebrate Species Photo Gallery

NOAA, NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Marine Mammal Image Library

NOAA, NMFS Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Guide to Rockfishes of the Northeast Pacific Ocean

NOAA, NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Groupers of the World

FAO external link

Sharks of the World V.II

FAO external link

Marine Mammals, Turtles, and Seabirds of the Pacific

NOAA, NMFS, Pacific Islands

Pacific Pelagic Species Identification (Kingdom Animalia)

NOAA, NMFS, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

Protected Marine Species Identification guide

National Heritage Trust – Australia external link

Whales and dolphins Identification Guide

Dept. of the Environment and Heritage – Australia external link

CITES Identification Guide – Sturgeons and Paddlefish

Minister of Environment – Canada external link

A Fisher’s Guide to New Zealand Seabirds

Dept. of Conservation – New Zealand external link

Pacific Seabirds (links to photos and publications)

Pacific Seabird Group external link

CITES Species Photo Gallery

CITES external link

Online Field Guide (multiple marine species)

Monterey Bay Aquarium external link

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Observer Program Design

Guidelines for Developing an at-Sea Fishery Observer Programme

FAO external link

Alaska Marine Mammal Program

NMFS Alaska Region

CCSBT Scientific Observer Program Standards

Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna external link

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