NOAA Report Claims Harassment, Intimidation of Observers

The 2014 annual report on the North Pacific Groundfish and Halibut Observer Program notes that observers reported a number of incidents of harassment, intimidation, hostile work environment, or attempted sample bias related to the collection of prohibited species catch data.

The report also claims an increase of institutionalized intentional biasing of observer data, attempts to influence how observers collect samples and hostile work environment. The report was released by Alaska Fisheries Science Centers Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis Division, which said multiple investigations of these incidents are currently ongoing.

The report said these investigations include allegations of physical sample bias including removing halibut from observer samples, or physically preventing a halibut from entering an observers sample during collection.

The report said that additional allegations include hostile work environment due to industry behavior and remarks to the observer in an attempt to influence how they sample the catch to reduce the number of halibut in their sampling.

Two outreach letters were sent to large cooperatives, one in the Amendment 80 vessel coop, the Alaska Seafood Cooperative, and the other a freezer longline fleet. The letters suggested trends involving intimidation, harassment, hostile work environment, sample and attempted coercion regarding halibut bycatch sampling methods as well as catch weighing and record keeping and reporting requirements.

The budget for the 2014 observer program notes that costs include $11,537,542 spent to procure 10,816 observer days for an average cost per observer day of $1,067.