ADF&G Shellfish Fishery

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) administers the Alaska Shellfish Observer Program. Starting in 1988, the State began to collect data on the crab fisheries within the regions of the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea that fall within the US Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ). Vessels were selected based on type of fishery and type of processing. Early on the ADF&G program was primarily an enforcement tool; however in recent years, and more so following the rationalization of the crab fisheries (assigning quota shares to reduce fleet size), the program has shifted focus to the biological assessment of the fishery stocks.

Observers are assigned to Opilio Tanner Crab (snow crab) and Red King Crab catcher vessels based on a random drawing to achieve a 20% coverage level. These fisheries occur traditionally from January to April and October to November, respectively. Observers are also placed on 50% of fishing effort in the Brown King Crab catcher vessels west of Dutch Harbor and 100% of vessels directly fishing for Bairdi Tanner Crab. Observer coverage requirements also exist for the Korean Hair crab and Blue King Crab fisheries; however, low stock levels have kept these fisheries closed in recent history.

Observer Duties

Measuring CrabAll Shellfish Observers are expected to perform the following duties during the majority of shellfish harvesting effort, seven days a week. These procedures will require observers to work long and unscheduled hours.

  • Collect representative samples of biological length/width frequencies, noting shell age and condition of crab retained.
  • Record daily catch rates of each catcher vessel, including number of crabs retained and number of pots fished.
  • Record numbers, size, sex and condition of bycatch, by species, including all crab and fish.
  • Observe the compliance or lack of compliance to fishing regulations. Document situations where violations are observed.
  • Document the percentage of non-legal crab not immediately returned to the sea.
  • Deliver periodic (weekly or daily) catch messages by radio to ADF&G as outlined in briefing.

Wages & Benefits

Our salary schedule is listed below. Air transportation is paid from point of hire to the point of vessel embarkation and return through point of debriefing; food and lodging are provided by the vessel or MRAG. All days at sea and in port are paid at the daily rate. Days between vessels (waiting days) in Anchorage are paid at half the daily rate, after the first five, and at the full rate after 10, with meal reimbursement and lodging throughout. Anchorage lodging is provided at the MRAG bunkhouse.

MRAG Observer Program Salary Schedule
Grade Deployment Days Daily Rate
1 0-90 $145
2 91-180 $150
3 181-270 $155
4 271-360 $175
5 361-495 $190
6 496-630 $200
7 631-765 $210
8 766+ $220

For more information on required qualification and benefits please visit our Employment Page.