offshore fishing vessel distress kitOffshore fishing vessel distress kit. Credit: NE Observer Program, NEFSC / NOAA

Safety Requirements

Observer Harassment

HARASSMENT OF AN OBSERVER WILL NOT BE TOLERATED. Violators are subject to Civil and/or Criminal Penalties up to $130,000 and 6 months imprisonment under the Magnuson Act and $20,000 and 1 year imprisonment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is unlawful to:

  1. Intimidate, resist, oppose, impede, sexually harass, bribe, or interfere with an observer.
  2. Interfere with or bias the sampling procedure employed by an observer.
  3. Tamper with, destroy, or discard an observer's collected samples, equipment, records, photos, papers, or personal effects.
  4. Prohibit or bar by command, impediment, threat, coercion, or by refusal of reasonable assistance, an observer from performing duties.
  5. Harass an observer by conduct that has sexual connotations, or otherwise creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.
  6. Require, pressure, coerce, or threaten an observer to perform crew member duties.

Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries; Eileen Sobeck: At Sea Monitors and Observers: Our Eyes and Ears on the Water.

Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examination Requirement

As of May 1, 2006, all federally permitted fishing vessels and/or those participating in Category 1 or Category II fisheries under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) that require mandatory observer coverage will be required to successfully complete the Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examination and display a current safety decal.

Vessels that fail to satisfy the new safety requirement will be deemed unsafe for purposes of carrying an observer onboard and will be prohibited from fishing. If the vessel fishes without correcting the safety deficiency, NOAA Fisheries Service or the U.S. Coast Guard may take enforcement action.

Coast Guard Dockside Examination

The Coast Guard conducts dockside examinations to help ensure fishing vessels have the best chance of surviving a mishap at sea. The exams are voluntary, at no charge to the vessel, and serve as a beneficial resource to the fishing community. Please see below for regional contact information to schedule a vessel examination.

Region Phone Number
Maine and New Hampshire

(207) 780-3256 or (207) 497-2200

Newburyport to Plymouth, Massachusetts (617) 223-3045
Cape Cod to Watch Hill, Rhode Island (508) 991-6812
Connecticut to Long Island Sound (203) 468-4437
New York and New Jersey (631) 732-0190
Southern New Jersey (Point Pleasant to Cape May) (609) 898-6211
Mid-Atlantic (Baltimore, Maryland) (410) 576-2634
Delaware Bay (215) 271-4880
Hampton Roads, Virginia (757) 668-5528
North Carolina (252) 247-4526

Click here to submit a Dockside Safety Exam Request.

Observer Safety Program

Our safety training has been designed and reviewed with consultation from the Alaska Marine Safety Education (AMSEA) program. Our safety trainers have been certified through this program. AMSEA is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to developing and supporting a cold water safety information and training network. The network has expanded from its beginning in Alaska to instructors on all four US coastlines. They provide training for safety instructors as well as commercial fishermen.

Our observer safety training is provided by Fathom Resources. Fathom Resources is an applied marine science consulting firm, which specializes in commercial fishery observer services with a component dedicated to training observers and industry representatives in safety and survival training.

Additional Information

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(File Modified Jun. 20 2017)