Northeast Fishery At-Sea Monitoring

Motif No. 1 - Rockport, MassachusettsThe New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) implemented a Sector Program to manage quotas assigned to individual vessels in the Northeast multispecies fishery through an amendment to the Fishery Management Plan (Amendment 16). These regulations were developed to enhance rebuilding of depleted stocks, which is particularly challenging in a multispecies fishery. The program was also designed in an attempt to better balance catch with quota. The Northeast Multispecies Sector Management Program became effective May 1, 2010, in an attempt to prevent overfishing and to provide a basis upon which to establish a sustainable groundfish fishery in the northeast.

Within the groundfish fishery, groups of vessel permit holders (at least three vessels per group) can voluntarily form a sector, thus agreeing to fishing measures and procedures in exchange for a share of the annual catch limit (ACL). Fishery quota is further divided among qualifying vessels within a formed sector. Sectors must manage and report their catch to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). This is accomplished in part by relying on At-Sea Monitors (ASMs) to collect data on the catch, discards, and protected species interactions with fishing gear.

At-Sea Monitors

MRAG Americas has been contracted by NMFS since April 2010, to provide at-sea monitors (ASMs) onboard domestic fishing vessels to observe and document information related to commercial fishing operations. MRAG Americas contracts directly with the NE Sectors to provide observer coverage.  ASMs collect data on catch, discards and bycatch while deployed on U.S. domestic fishing vessels participating in the Northeast groundfish fishery from Maine to New Jersey. Vessels employ longline, trawl and gillnet fishing gear. ASMs are randomly assigned to vessels to ensure that coverage is fair and evenly distributed throughout the fleet.

ASM’s are hired by MRAG Americas and trained and certified by NMFS at the Fishery Observer Training Center in Falmouth, MA. This facility is part of Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Fishery Sampling Branch (FSB) and provides program management, observer training, data editing and data management. MRAG works closely with NOAA/NMFS to deploy and support the ASMs. More information on sector management is available from the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Office.

At-Sea Monitors Responsibilities

  • Collect scientific, management, compliance and other data at-sea, as deemed necessary by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). Data collection will be conducted through observations of fishing operations, interviews with vessel captains and crew, photographing catch, and measurements of selected portions of the catch and fishing gear.
  • Collect data on fishing effort, location, and retained and discarded catch for each tow while aboard the vessel. They may also include length measurements from segments of the catch.
  • Record, collect, and photograph all marine mammals, sea turtles and sea birds incidentally caught in the fishing gear.

Fishing trips range from 1-14 days, leaving from ports between Maine and New Jersey. Monitors are assigned to a region, yet travel between ports may be required. Vessels are generally 30-100 feet in length and operate in ocean waters 3 – 200 miles offshore, in all weather conditions.


If you are interested in becoming an At-Sea Monitor please visit our employment page.

For non-employment related questions, please contact our Northeast Observer Program Manager:
Danielle Kane at (206) 661-7438.