The Ministry for Primary Industries’ observer programme fulfills an important role in fisheries management through the collection of data, assisting with stock assessment, and monitoring of the environmental impacts of fishing. Observers are trained using the NZQA-approved Observer Qualification. Data is captured using electronic laptops or tablets. When observers return from trips, the information can be downloaded and reviewed during debriefing.
The Department of Conservation is a partner in the Ministry’s observer programme with fisheries observers acting as the Department’s “eyes and ears at sea”. This work is an important part of the Conservation Services Programme, which is managed by the Department, and which aims to ensure that “commercial fishing is undertaken in a manner that does not compromise the protection and recovery of protected species in New Zealand fisheries waters”.
The programme monitors the impacts of commercial fishing on protected species, researches endangered species populations, and identifies ways to limit bycatch. The commercial fishing industry is legally required to contribute to the costs of research provided by this programme. These levies have helped to fund a number of measures, including the development of potential mitigation devices, provision of advisory officers and the development of bycatch management measures.
The goals of the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation’s Observer Programme are to:
- Inform management of impacts from fishing on protected species (seabirds and marine mammals in particular) by identifying and quantifying interactions, and assessing the effectiveness of mitigation measures, where appropriate;
- Minimise adverse effects of fishing on the aquatic environment, including on biological diversity; and
- Inform management of fish stocks by gathering biological and other information.
Between 31 May 2013 and 31 May 2014 there were 12,605 planned sea days observing fishing activities (with 10,162 total days achieved). 1898 These were spent across a range of fisheries, including deepwater, middle depth, pelagic, inshore and other species.
Last updated at 1:38PM on February 25, 2015