Fisheries observers act as the Department of Conservation’s eyes and ears at sea.
The Conservation Services Programme relies, in part, on data collected by observers to ascertain the adverse effects of commercial fishing on protected species.
Observers provide information on the types of interactions that are occurring between the various fisheries and different protected species. Data on the numbers of different species being caught on observed vessels are used to determine the level of incidental take across the whole fishery.
Observers facilitate the return of specimens of certain protected species for autopsy and/or identification, and in some instances the observer collects biological samples for analysis (i.e. genetic studies).
This enables researchers to confirm the species identification and to collect valuable biological data on these species, as well as providing some insight into how individual animals died.
Additionally, observers monitor a vessel’s bycatch mitigation practices to determine if they are following their Protected Species Risk Management Plan (PSRMP), and to highlight areas where bycatch mitigation could be improved.