13 November 2018

Amber Bennett is one of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s (AFMA) dedicated field Observers. Amber encourages anyone with a passion and dedication to our oceans to consider applying to join the AFMA Observer program. We caught up with Amber to get an insight into what makes her passionate about being an Observer.

What drew you to AFMA’s observer program?

I grew up around the ocean in Western Australia, heading out with Dad on the boat on the weekends to pull cray pots and catch Dhufish, and I decided that I would continue that passion by studying a Bachelor of Marine Science. I’ve been around fisheries management and marine research ever since. A friend recommended that I apply for the Observer program through AFMA’s temporary employment register. I did some observer work in 2016, went back to research with WA Fisheries for a stint and have started back with the program in July 2018.

What are your favourite fisheries to work in and how long are you usually at sea?

I don’t yet have a favourite as I like the diversity of each fishery. I’ve worked in the Northern Prawn Fishery, Gillnet, South East Trawl, on a Tuna Long liner and in Danish Seine. The longest I’ve spent at sea to date is ten days. Getting my sea legs after being on land for a long period of time and over the sea sickness is always fun too!

What are some of the challenges you face in working closely with the fishing industry?

Initially the fishers were hesitant to talk to me, but once you can show that you know what you are doing and doing it well, they all have respect for you as we do our work alongside everyone else on board.

As an observer we live like a crew member sharing the kitchen, quarters and amenities but I do make sure I always carry a toiletry kit because sometimes the amenities on board can be pretty basic.

What’s been your favourite trip to date?

I don’t have a particular favourite but really enjoyed the Northern Prawn Fishery, because of the species diversity (and the warm weather is much nicer in comparison to fishing in Bass Strait!).

What keeps your passion alive for being an Observer?

I grew up with a passion for the ocean and the diversity that it offers, so being an Observer means that this passion continues and it doesn’t feel like work for me.

Being buddied with an Observer for my first trip gave me the confidence to head out on my own and as I said before I really enjoy the diversity of the job. No two days are the same, there are days where I take otoliths or vertebrae samples (which can be very tricky in rough seas) and others where I’m catching up on sleep or collating all the data that I’ve collected throughout the trip.

Being able to explain to others about the diversity of our oceans and the sea life also means a lot to me.

What’s next for you?

Eventually I would like to go into a fisheries management type role. I would definitely consider more study in the future, probably along the lines of a PhD.

For anyone looking at getting into the industry - if you’ve got a great sense of adventure and a passion for fisheries, go for it!

You can check out a video that shows Amber and other observers in action through AFMA’s Facebook page.

AFMA places observers on Commonwealth commercial boats in many Commonwealth fisheries to collect accurate and reliable data on fishing operations, catches, and interactions with the marine environment by the vessel and its fishing gear.

More information on the AFMA Observer Program can be found at afma.gov.au.