The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) Fisheries Sampling Branch (FSB) collects, maintains, and distributes data for scientific and management purposes in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. FSB manages three separate but related observer programs: the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program (NEFOP), the Industry Funded Scallop (IFS) Observer Program, and the At Sea Monitoring (ASM) Program. For the purposes of this manual, “observers” refers to any observer/monitor working for the FSB.
In 2011, FSB trained and deployed over 200 observers, provided coverage on a variety of fisheries, and completed over 15,000 sea days. Observed trips are required under many of the region's fishery management plans, and for some fisheries by other federal laws and authorities such as Amendment 16 and Framework 44, Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the and the Sustainable Fisheries Act.
The purpose of this guide is to provide FSB observers, as well as end users of NEFSC Observer Program data, with a detailed description of each data field collected. In addition to this manual, the NEFSC Observer Program Biological Sampling and Catch Estimation Manual provides summaries and tables intended to enable observers to quickly determine the correct sampling protocols and methods while at sea.
This manual represents a revision of the data forms, collection procedures, and protocols described in the 1996 NEFSC Observer Program Manual. For documentation of other changes see Documentation of changes made to the NEFSC Fisheries Observer Program Manual, 2013.
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