Fine tooth sharkThe mission of the National Observer Program  is to provide a formalized mechanism for NOAA Fisheries to address observer issues of national importance and to develop policies and procedures to ensure that NOAA Fisheries observers and observer programs are fully supported. The policies must reflect the diverse needs of regional observer programs while enhancing data quality and achieving consistency in key areas of national importance.


  • Coordinate the National Observer Program Advisory Team.
  • Communicate and advocate the mission of the National Observer Program and each regional observer program.
  • Develop and support national standards and policies to create high quality, cost effective, efficient, and productive observer programs.
  • Characterize and qualify the activities and resources of NOAA Fisheries observer programs and advocate for full support


National Oberver Program Activities

Enhancements to Data Quality and Data Collection Procedures
  • To develop and evaluate Agency initiatives to improve the quality of observer data from regional observer programs.
  • To evaluate the procedures for collection of observer data, including the review of data collection methodologies and bycatch estimation procedures.
  • To develop technological and methodological enhancements to improve data collection techniques.
  • To enhance the quality of data collected by observers through development of national standards for the collection, management, and distribution of observer data.
  • To enhance integration of observer data with other data collection programs such as logbooks, VMS, and landing reports.
  • To develop and update a national bycatch report for documentation of regional and national bycatch estimates and estimation procedures, identification of gaps in coverage, and input into strategic planning processes.
Policy Development
  • To identify amendments under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and other federal legislation necessary to support observer program activities.
  • To develop national policies on issues of national concern to observer programs, such as hiring and training observers, observer safety and health, and data confidentiality.
Observer Support
  • To recognize and support the needs of observers so that they are able to collect high quality scientific data.
  • To communicate NOP activities of interest to the observer community
Program Enhancements
  • To identify the agency’s highest priorities for observer data collection and make recommendations on how observer programs can fulfill those needs. 
  • To review regional observer programs and make recommendations on how to improve program operations and administration
  • To review the cost efficiency and effectiveness of observer program operations.
Outreach and Education
  • To communicate the goals and objectives of NOAA Fisheries observer programs at a national level.
  • To support and coordinate the outreach activities of regional observer programs.
  • To formalize working relationships between observer programs and other state/federal agencies and organizations.
  • To support and participate in the International Fisheries Observer Conference.
  • To maintain an awareness of observer programs worldwide.
  • To assist other NOAA Fisheries offices with international observer-related issues.