Why do we put Observers on Board and not just cameras?

Educating and training onboard observers, who accurately monitor all procedures on the tuna purse seine vessel, is an essential component in managing tuna fisheries. PNA observers are employed by their governments, and are fully independent, switching between boats, and almost year round at sea. Managing and guiding these hundreds of observers, and collecting the massive amounts of data they collect on their trips, is of great importance.

People have asked why not apply modern technology and have onboard observers replaced by onboard cameras? That would be a lot easier? After all, there are closed circuit video systems in place in some countries that do monitor the fishing vessel.

Onboard observers have a great advantage over cameras; they can accurately see everything that happens on the ship, and can report this to the fishing authority during –as well as- right after the trip. They can estimate the quantity of the catch, the sizes of the fish, identify species, the fishing method and the level of by-catch, and many other factors.

Cameras can possibly take over part of this job, but are only effective when all the footage recorded during a trip is later reviewed also by an educated and specialized independent reviewer. This in itself can also be a very labor-intensive and costly process. If tapes from a dozen onboard cameras are not all completely reviewed right after discharge by an independent authority, most of the information could become less useful for management and scientific purposes.

This is why the PNA and Pacifical are investing a lot of time and effort in additional training and educating observers in the criteria that need to be met for fish to become MSC eligible.