Welcome to the APO's Home Page
Our goal is to provide a comprehensive source of information for observers, and the public, on issues related to fishery observer programs. Please see the APO Strategic Plan, 2016-2020 here.
What fisheries observers are not: Assault, harassment, interference and bribery attempts are not an acceptable condition of being employed as an observer. These are federal and international violations of the law. These laws are intended to allow observers to collect unbiased biological data and specimens on board commercial vessels, processing plants and other monitored sampling platforms. The observer position has been created as a primary function of federal, provincial, state and regional governments in their task to objectively manage public ocean resources. Observer programs and observer employers should support observers in their ability to carry out these duties. Observers should be well-informed of these laws and the process for which violations will be prosecuted. It is in the best interest of fisheries resource managers to support and protect observers' welfare.
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October 10, 2015
We are heartbroken to be missing Keith Davis, an international observer and former board member of the Association for Professional Observers. Keith, a resident of Arizona, United States, was reported missing a month ago, September 10, 2015 from an Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) Transshipment Observer Program assignment approximately 500 miles off of Peru. The vessel was the Victoria No. 168, a Japanese owned, Chinese operated, Panamanian-flagged transshipment vessel taking fish from a Taiwanese-owned, Vanuatu-flagged longline vessel, the Chung Kuo No. 818. There are many questions that remain to be answered regarding the investigation into his disappearance, so please visit the Friends of Keith Davis Facebook Page for information and discussion.
Keith was a staunch advocate for observer professionalism, rights, safety and welfare and it is hard to encapsulate all that he did for observers and the way he did it. His reach was far and wide and touched many hearts with his passion for, not only observer rights, but also for being a good human being and enjoying life. He and a handful of his observer colleagues developed the Observer Bill of Rights at the International Fisheries Observer Conference (IFOC) in 2000 and he has been integrally involved in making sure the observer perspective was realized at this conference ever since. In 2006, Keith began tirelessly coordinating the Observer Professionalism Working Group at the 4th IFOC and produced several outputs from this effort. His presence at this conference will be impossible to fill, though we will try to carry the torch. If it weren't for Keith, the observers' perspective would surely have been usurped by industry and agency perspectives and observers would remain an obscure and under-represented profession. Keith was integral in developing the International Observer Bill of Rights, which was presented in 2013 at the 7th IFOMC.
Keith was also faithful to the APO and its purpose. Much of his work as a board member is evidenced by the extensive information in the contents of these pages here and later editions of our newsletter, the Mail Buoy., which probably wouldn't have occurred if it weren't for him. We are shocked and saddened by his absence.
September 27, 2015: Testimony on the lack of action by RFMOs to protect fisheries observers - presented by Bubba Cook at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Technical and Compliance Meeting
8th International Fisheries Observer and Monitoring Conference
Bahia Resort Hotel, San Diego, California
29 August - 02 September 2016
The IFOMC series began in 1998 to gather fisheries monitoring program managers, observers, and data end-users and discuss the many challenges observer programs face, as well as the many advances that have been made in meeting the demands of monitoring the worlds commercial and recreational fisheries. Please see the scientific program here.
In addition to the many hardships that fisheries observers face working at sea, they sometimes face harassment and assault from the fishermen. Keith Davis was never found and many believe he was murdered. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) still has Keith's personal and work computer and his camera, so they must have something but are not telling us. Another long time observer, Josh Sheldon, died mysteriously from an infection last March. He was found unconscious on the boat while at sea and died 10 days later. Two other Papua New Guinea observers "disappeared" - one in 2010 and another last year. None of these cases have been solved. We are revamping the Observer Safety Working Group during this conference, which will be forming at least three on-going committees to address the most egregious and vulnerable issues facing observers. It's horrible that people have to die for those living to learn lessons, act and make changes. We undoubtedly will not arrive at solutions during the conference but will continue working in these committees, asking the hard questions, sorting out the complexities and publishing the results. Hopefully we will arrive at internationally recognized standards and protocols.
Please click here for details on the Observer Safety Working Group to be held during the 2nd or 3rd day of the conference.
Public Access to Observer Data and Information
The Magnuson-Stevens Act is up for reauthorization and we must ensure that the public maintains adequate access to fisheries observer data and information, including Electronic Monitoring data. When the MS Act was last reauthorized in 2007, they took this away. After 5 years, NOAA made a miserable attempt to implement regulations in 2012 to match the intent of this inherently flawed Congressional act - but not without overwhelming public dissent on the matter. Please see the Public Access page for more information.
Electronic monitoring is rapidly becoming the panacea for all fisheries monitoring problems. It is barreling forward without regard for a number of concerns about its reliability, cost effectiveness, public access to the data, and many other deficiencies in comparison to human observers. We felt it necessary to outline these concerns and guidance regarding what every EM program should consider. Please see the APO Electronic Monitoring Position Statement here.
An investigation into wrongful management practices of Southeast Observer Programs
In December 2011, APO and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) wrote a letter to NOAA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) requesting an investigation into the practices of the Observer Programs managed by the Southeast Region of NMFS. The request for investigation is based on a statement by a Southeast Fisheries Observer in the Pelagic Observer Program, as well as comments made by other Observers anonymously. The allegations against NMFS include: ignoring witnessed fisheries violations by fisheries observers; failure to enforce laws that support the safety and welfare of observers; ignoring plastics pollution discard reported by observers; ignoring dangers of the BP oil spill exposure to observers; and blackballing fisheries observers if they refuse unsafe trips or otherwise question program management. Please see the press release here.
Unfortunately, the OIG responded by turning over the investigation to the very agency accused of wrongdoing. Here is their summary.
Appendix 1: APO/PEER Complaint
Appendix 2-4: SE Observer Program Internal Controls
Appendix 5: Observer Harassment Cases
Appendix 6 - 8: Investigative Team Timeline; BP Oil Spill E-mails; Questionnaire
Appendix 9: SE NMFS Staff Interview Questions
Appendix 10: Incidental Take Permit Issues
Appendix 11: Observer Responses
Appendix 12: Observer Accommodation Violations; Declaration claiming independence of investigative team (note absence of the third investigator, the SE Director of NMFS).
The OIG shortly redacted the entire report and instead directed NMFS to conduct a national review of all observer program management practices in the US. This had the effect of merely reporting on management practices, diluting regionally rogue federal practices and not requiring any changes or reports, as in the original report.
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