NOAA Plans Review of Observer Program

Concerns over the safety of fisheries observers have
prompted a review of training and related politics involved in monitoring
domestic fishing fleets.
Officials within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration’s National Office of Law Enforcement say the review, prompted by
concerns over increasing incidents of attacks on observers, is to be completed
in October.
NOAA officials are responding to complaints from fisheries
observers filed through the Association for Professional Observers and Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
But according to Matthew Brown, acting special agent in
charge for NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement in Alaska, such attacks on
observers are rare in Alaska.
In any case, Brown said, all crimes against observers are
investigated quickly as a highest priority. 
The Alaska division takes a proactive approach to workplace crimes
against observers, through outreach to industry and training to prepare
observers for possible conflicts at sea, Brown said.
Observers are instructed to report every conflict and
potentially hostile interaction.
“We do not want observers to ever be considered
enforcement,” he said. “Their role is to report observed activity that may be a
violation, just as they report biological data for fisheries management.”

It is NOAA’s role to review, interpret, identify and follow
up on potential regulatory violations, he said. NOAA provides enforcement
training to new and veteran observers, and observers are provided with agents’
cell phone numbers, and also with the national enforcement hotline number, he said.