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training on gear characteristics of the Ruhle Trawl using a scaled-down model and expert gear engineer Training on gear characteristics of the Ruhle trawl using a scaled-down model and expert gear engineer. Credit: NE Observer Program, NEFSC / NOAA

Northeast Fisheries Observer Training and Manuals

Program Manuals

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) Fisheries Sampling Branch (FSB) collects, maintains, and distributes data for scientific and management purposes in the Northwest Atlantic. FSB manages three separate but related observer programs: the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program (NEFOP), the At Sea Monitoring (ASM) Program, and the Industry Funded Scallop (IFS) Program. Detailed information regarding all data collected by FSB Observer Programs can be found in the three observer program manuals; the Operations Manual, the Data Entry Manual, and the On Deck Reference Guide. Below is a description of the information specific to each manual and a link to the electronic version of the manuals.

  • The Operations Manual focuses on the process of observing a trip with sections for trip selection, gear to bring, and communication/conflict resolution; fishery-specific information including definition of terms, safety concerns, sampling strategies, and common scenarios; protected species information; protocols for biological sampling; and catch estimation.
  • The Data Entry Manual contains instructions for completing all fields (paper or electronic) collected on an observed fishing trip. It includes a table for each log, with individual data fields represented by rows in the table. For each field, the table provides the name of the field, the collection method (captain vs. observer, measured vs. calculated, etc.), the units of measurement and precision (whole pounds, to the nearest tenth of a foot, etc.), and the proper method for indicating an unknown value. All code lists are included in appendices for quick reference, as well as statistical area maps.
  • The On Deck Reference Guide contains biological sampling targets, length and age structure collection, biological sampling of protected species, photos and descriptions of gear configurations by fishery, species verification requirements and brief ID guides, protected species ID guides, and specialized catch estimation strategies. In 2016, a new page specific to ASM trips was created, emphasizing that groundfish discards take priority over any others, even if it is not the highest priority listed in the sampling tables.

Additional information on the Observer Program including, objectives, observer requirements, policies, memoranda, related documents, and requirements for observed trips and training see the Fisheries Sampling Branch Handbook. Observer Program information pertaining to fishing industry stakeholders can be found in the Fisheries Sampling Branch Handbook for the Fishing Industry.

Annual Training Schedule

The FSB schedules multiple certification and re-certification trainings and refresher classes, depending on needs and resources available.  This annual schedule is a best estimate but may change throughout the year.  For additional information about training, please contact Tania Lewandowski (508-495-2264).

General Training Information and Materials

Included below are informational materials and resources in preparation for training. Information includes an overview of training topics, lists of species observers are tested on, photoguide to commercially encountered marine fishes, and a pre-test mathematical assessment example.

Click on the tab to see details for each program training.

  • Northeast Fisheries Observers
  • At-Sea Monitoring
  • Industry-Funded Scallop
Industry-Funded Scallop (IFS) Observer Training Documents

Industry-Funded Scallop Training Agendas

Industry-Funded Scallop Monitoring References

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