NMFS Alaska Groundfish Fishery

Floating ProcessorAs the American harvest of groundfish resources replaced the foreign and joint-venture fisheries, domestic observer programs were implemented to provide biological data in place of the former database provided by the Foreign Fisheries Observer Program. Currently all vessels over 60 feet require observer some level of coverage, this falls into two categories; vessels under 125 ft in length require 30% coverage of fishing days and vessels 125 ft or greater require 100% coverage. Some vessels must carry two observers while fishing under the American Fisheries Act (AFA) or Community Development Quotas (CDQ). In addition, observers are required at shore-side plants harvesting or processing groundfish species within the US Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ, 3-200 miles offshore).

Observer Duties

All Groundfish Observers are expected to perform the following duties during the majority of groundfish harvesting effort, seven days a week. These procedures will often require the observer to work long and unscheduled hours.

  • Maintain records of the total groundfish catch, location of fishing, and fishing effort of every fishing operation conducted.
  • Determine the catch composition of both the permitted catch of groundfish and of incidental catches (of by-catch and prohibited species).
  • Collect biological data from designated species which include, but are not limited to: length and weight frequency measurements, age structures (scales/otoliths), and retrieval of tags from tagged fish.
  • Record the species, number, and condition of marine mammals taken in fishing operations, or interactions with fishing gear.
  • Collect biological data from marine mammals incidentally killed in fishing operations.
  • Periodic (daily or weekly) reports of estimated catches (permitted and prohibited species), species and count of marine mammals incidentally caught and/or killed, and measure of the vessel’s fishing effort.
  • Collect data on the design and operation of the fishing gear, fish processing techniques, and product recovery rates.

Alaskan Longline Fisherman Working in Alaskan waters is often physically and mentally demanding. Rough seas are common, initial bouts of seasickness are very uncomfortable for many people, and the environment can be cold, wet and unpleasant. Vessel lengths range from 60 ft to over 300 ft; living and working conditions on board vessels can be relatively cramped. On many vessels, fishing takes place 24 hours a day; some vessels are equipped to go out to sea for longer than a month, though the majority of trips typically last from one day to two weeks. An observer’ s work schedule follows the vessel’s fishing practices and is often erratic and unpredictable, making it difficult to adhere to regular sleeping patterns. A typical day’s activities include heavy lifting (up to 80 pounds), climbing ladders, and working on rolling, slippery decks. While at-sea and in Alaskan fishing ports, there is minimal access to amenities such as phones, computers and mail.

MRAG provides observers for the shoreside longline vessels in the Gulf of Alaska during the spring and summer Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) sablefish season; the longline catcher processor fleet fishing in the Bering Sea from Dutch Harbor, Alaska; and the shoreside trawl and pot gear catcher fleets in Kodiak, King Cove, Dutch Harbor, and Akutan.

Wages & Benefits

Our salary schedule is listed below. 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. We also provide Air transportation 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.

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 qualifications and benefits please visit our Employment Page.