Hawaii & Alaska
Cory Lum / Civil Beat

HI - NOAA Keeps Deploying Fishery Observers But With Limits Amid Pandemic

The NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office maintained full observer coverage of swordfish but had to temporarily cease observer coverage in American Samoa.

Considered essential workers, federal fishery observers have continued monitoring Pacific commercial operations during the pandemic, but COVID-19 restrictions have forced them to reduce — or even cease — operations in some areas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dispatches observers to travel aboard fishing vessels to monitor the crew’s practices and what they catch – including any bycatch of endangered species. The goal is to preserve fish stocks and protect maritime ecosystems.

“Providing seafood to the country is an essential function, and adequate monitoring of our fisheries is important to the process,” NOAA spokeswoman Celeste Hanley said. “NOAA Fisheries has processes in place to maintain fishery operations and the monitoring necessary for sustainable management.”

However, fears of coronavirus spread prompted the agency to announce in June that it would give its regional administrators, office directors and science center directors the ability to temporarily waive observer requirements for vessels on a case-by-case basis based on local conditions.

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