Observers are AFMA employees trained in specialised sampling techniques including the collection of otoliths (fish ear bones), biological samples such as the sex and length of a fish and environmental observations such as whether birds and other wildlife could be seen during a fishing trip or if there was bad weather.

Observers have fishing industry experience and/or environmental science or management qualifications. Observers often provide the most reliable data on catch composition, fate of target and non-target species and fishing effort.

The Observer Program provides fisheries managers, research organisations, environmental agencies, the fishing industry and the wider community with independent, reliable, verified and accurate information on the fishing catch, effort and practice of a wide range of boats operating inside, and periodically outside, the Australian Fishing Zone.

The Observer Program places AFMA trained observers on domestic and if required, foreign boats fishing within the Australian Fishing Zone and some adjacent high seas areas under international arrangements.

Each year the requirements and priorities for the Observer Program are determined by AFMA after consultation with the relevant management advisory committees and resource assessment groups, so that timing and spacing observer coverage is proportional to fishing effort within and across fisheries.

Observer data, along with data from other sources such as fisher’s catch records, assists AFMA in setting total allowable catches for each quota species.

Observer data is also important in helping gauge the level of interactions with non-target species including with threatened, endangered and protected species.

All operators are required to carry observers when requested by AFMA.

View operator specific information about carrying an observer.