Fisheries observer

Fisheries observer article illustration


Fisheries observers record and report on fishing activity and the level of compliance and enforcement of conservation measures in force in the work area by controlling the vessel’s position, the use of the fishing gear, and the catch. They provide the reports required for the scientific monitoring of the fishing area, provide policy advice, and plan and coordinate activities.

Fisheries observers typically do the following:

  • Documenting all fishing activity, including catch size and composition
  • Verifying fishing locations
  • Collecting biological samples
  • Monitoring compliance to fishery regulations
  • Describing fishing and processing techniques in a comprehensive trip report

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to fisheries observer:

fishing area observer
fishing activity observer
fisheries control reporter
fishery observer

Working conditions

Observing is a physically and psychologically demanding job that can include exposure to cold, wet weather, cramped quarters, and rough seas. Phone and internet access is typically not available or only very limited, making it challenging to communicate with family or friends while at sea.

The rhythm of fishing often requires long, odd work hours with shifts ranging from 5 to 15 hours a day. Fisheries observers typically share a bunkroom with up to 6 crew members and rarely get a whole, uninterrupted night of sleep. Seasickness is common, and vessels are rarely smoke-free. On top of that, shipboard life can also be stressful since the goals, priorities, and backgrounds of the crew and the observer can be very different.

Minimum qualifications

Fisheries observer candidates typically have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a major in natural sciences.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Fisheries observer is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Fisheries observer career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to fisheries observer.

fisheries refrigeration engineer
marine chief engineer
aquaculture quality supervisor
deck officer
ship captain

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of fisheries observer. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of fisheries observer with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

marine engineer
agriculture, forestry and fishery vocational teacher
fisheries adviser
aquaculture environmental analyst
maritime instructor

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of fisheries observer.

  • Fisheries management: The principles, methods and equipment used in population management applied to fisheries: the concept of catch, by-catch, fishing effort, maximum sustainable yield, different sampling methods and how to use sampling material.
  • International regulations for preventing collisions at sea: Fundamental aspects of the international regulations to prevent collisions at sea, such as the conduct of vessels in sight of one another, navigation lights and markers, major light and acoustic signals, maritime signaling and buoys.
  • Fishing gear: Identification of the different gear used in capturing fisheries and their functional capacity.
  • Pollution prevention: The processes used to prevent pollution: precautions to pollution of the environment, procedures to counter pollution and associated equipment, and possible measures to protect the environment.
  • Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the guidelines established for professional fishers.
  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships: The fundamental principles and requirements laid in the International Regulation for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL): Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil, Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk, prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form, Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships, Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships, Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships.
  • Deterioration of fish products: Process of decomposition and spoilage of fish products: physical, enzymatic, microbiological and chemical processes occurring after harvesting.
  • Fisheries legislation: The study and analysis of different fisheries management approaches taking into account international treaties and industry norms in order to analyze fisheries management regulations.
  • Fish anatomy: The study of the form or morphology of fish species.
  • Fishing vessels: Denomination of the different elements and equipment of fishing vessels.
  • Risks associated with undertaking fishing operations: General risks occurring when working on fishing boats and specific risks arising only in some fishing modalities. Prevention of threats and accidents.
  • Quality of fish products: Factors affecting the quality of fish products. For instance, differences between species, impact of the fishing gears and parasite influence on the preservation of quality.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of fisheries observer.

  • Work in outdoor conditions: Can cope with different climate conditions such as heat, rain, cold or in strong wind.
  • Extinguish fires: Choose the adequate substances and methods to extinguish fires depending on their size, such as water and various chemical agents. Use a breathing apparatus.
  • Survive at sea in the event of ship abandonment: Identify muster signals and what emergencies they signal. Comply with established procedures. Don and use a lifejacket or an immersion suit. Safely jump into the water from a height. Swim and right an inverted liferaft while wearing a swim while wearing a lifejacket. Keep afloat without a lifejacket. Board a survival craft from the ship, or from the water while wearing a lifejacket. Take initial actions on boarding survival craft to enhance chance of survival. Stream a drogue or sea-anchor. Operate survival craft equipment. Operate location devices, including radio equipment.
  • Handle fish products: Handle fish with care and hygiene required to maintain quality. Adequately prepare fish products for storage.

ISCO group and title

3359 – Regulatory government associate professionals not elsewhere classified

  1. Fisheries observer – ESCO
  2. Fishery Observer Jobs – Saltwater Inc
  3. Become an Observer | NOAA Fisheries
  4. Featured image: By Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Marine Observer Program. – NOAA Photo Library: fish0328, Public Domain
Last updated on February 1, 2023

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