Data collected by well-trained, independent observers are the cornerstone of management in the Federal and halibut fisheries off Alaska. Fisheries-dependent monitoring by observers and electronic monitoring systems (EM) provide reliable and verifiable information about fish harvested by commercial fisheries, as well as data concerning seabird and marine mammal interactions with commercial vessels. Although both observers and EM collect information on the location, quantity, composition, and disposition of catch, observers also collect a suite of biological samples.
The Fishery Monitoring and Analysis Division of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center administers the North Pacific Observer Program. The size of the program is commensurate with the size of its mission: in 2018 over 400 observers that were deployed for over 40,000 sea-days. In addition, over 140 vessels were monitored for catch estimation using EM. The Division is pleased to announce an available position for a scientist with knowledge of fisheries, statistical modelling and computer science to assist a team of analysts that conducts quantitative analyses to support the scientifically rigorous collection of fishery dependent data to meet the needs of stock assessment and catch estimation.
NMFS and the Council currently allocate observer effort towards its multiple objectives within an established budget, and report to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on the prior effectiveness of the sampling design in Annual Reports and its intended plan to monitor fisheries in Annual Deployment Plans. Although NMFS and the Council have used the flexibility of the restructured process to make continuous improvements towards optimizing coverage across fisheries, there is not a specific amount of coverage at which NMFS is unable to manage the groundfish fisheries. Rather, there are levels of observer coverage at which NMFS may not have data in specific strata or fisheries. Data quality is a continuum, and a single threshold is not appropriate, nor desired, for such a complicated and diverse program. Instead, the Annual Deployment Plan process provides a risk assessment and information to guide policy decisions about where to reduce risk of no coverage, rather than a single defining rate where data becomes unreliable (which would only be relative to a specific sampling objective and measure).
The incumbent will be responsible for a re-evaluation of how the fleet subject to partial observer coverage requirements is divided into sampling strata, how sampling effort afforded is allocated to these strata, and the fishery monitoring tool(s) employed for each. The individual will derive an optimal sampling design from multiple objectives making use of variance and cost inputs for the monitoring tools offered by electronic compliance monitoring, electronic catch estimation, and observer data collections made at-sea and on shore. Optimal use of these monitoring tools and their use in sampling designs must be evaluated in terms of their ability to collect information that is representative in space and time of fishing activities, their cost, and their relative worth in terms of their various uses (i.e., their availability for the generation of catch estimates for catch accounting, their resulting reduction of variance in those estimates and resulting sample size for stock assessment purposes).
The results of this project will directly inform NMFS Annual Deployment Plans for observers and EM in the North Pacific that is reviewed by the Council and its associated Committees.
Cahalan, J., C. Faunce, J. Bonney and R. Swanson. 2016. A field test of fisheries observer sampling methods for estimation of at-sea discards. Fisheries Research 174:219-233. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2015.10.004.
Faunce, C. H. 2015. An initial analysis of alternative sample designs for the deployment of observers in Alaska. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-AFSC-307, 33 p. doi:10.7289/V5/TM-AFSC-307.
Faunce, C.H., J. Cahalan, J. Bonney, and R. Swanson. 2015. Can observer sampling validate industry catch reports from trawl fisheries? Fisheries Research 172:34-43. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2015.06.007.
Sampling Design; Fisheries Monitoring; Optimization; Electronic Monitoring; Alaska