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North Pacific Groundfish Observer

North Pacific Groundfish Observer positions with Alaskan Observers, Inc. (AOI)

Working and living aboard domestic fishing vessels, AOI's observers sample catches for species composition, and for the incidence of salmon, halibut, and crab; they make estimates of total catch; and they collect age structures and gather biological data from target species. The National Marine Fisheries Service uses this information for the purposes of both in-season management and to establish fishing quotas for future seasons.

Gathering, sorting, and weighing a sample at sea is a physically demanding job, and recording the data gathered requires a biologist's attention to detail. Nearly all of our observers are assigned to vessels, though at any one time we do have one or two observers stationed in shore-based or floating processing plants in Alaska. All the vessels we cover are U.S. flagged, and the vast majority of them work in the Bering Sea or Gulf of Alaska; a smaller number work off the West Coast.

This is not a 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. job--rather, twelve to fourteen hour days are the rule, and observers can generally expect to work in three to four-hour bursts three or four times during each day when their vessel is fishing. If a vessel is fishing at night, then sampling must be done at night--sleep has to be fit around an erratic schedule. The work is further complicated by the fact that observers and fisherman have different objectives--diplomatic efforts on the observer's part, aimed at securing a mutually agreeable working environment, are often part of the job.

The vessels we work on make trips of anywhere from one month (this for larger vessels, generally over 150 feet in length, that both catch and process fish) to three days (this for smaller vessels, 60 to 135 feet in length, that deliver their catches to shore-based processing plants). Observers live on their boats, often in crowded and spartan conditions. An observer may spend an entire field deployment aboard a single vessel, though he or she is more likely to spend time working on several different vessels.

During training observers receive the following compensation: 1)$450.00 per week salary 2)reimbursement of up to $175.00 per week, and 3)lodging.

Upon completion of training, observers are deployed to the field and begin making a salary of $4017.90 per month.

We encourage observers who are successful during their first deployments to return and make additional cruises for AOI. Observers receive incremental salary increases depending on the amount of time they have spent in the field. Currently, our top salary for experience groundfish observers is $6284.40 per month.

The National Marine Fisheries Service provides observers with survival suits,life-vests, and hard hats, along with all sampling equipment. Observers must provide their own rain gear, which generally costs around $375.00, and their own sleeping bags. If you are hired, we will provide you with more detailed information about what gear and clothing you need to bring with you at the start of your employment, as well as what gear you should wait to purchase in Seattle.


Alaskan Observers, Inc.

130 Nickerson, #206
Seattle, WA 98109
Phone: 888-317-9343 (toll free)
Fax: 206-283-6519
e-mail: aoistaff@alaskanobservers.com