5 October 2018

Steve Hall has been an Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) Observer since 2004, and his passion for his work is still as strong today as it was 14 years ago. We caught up with Steve to hear about his favourite things about being an observer, check it out below.

I started observing in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery before electronic monitoring (EM) was brought in. The EM cameras capture video footage of the fishing operations to help AFMA verify what’s reported in logbooks, so observers are no longer required to verify catch on boats that have EM installed. I have also completed deployments in the Southern Ocean, the Small Pelagic Fishery and South East Trawl.

For the last 14 years much of my work has been in the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) and I really enjoy it. The weather is generally great, the type of work I do interests me, and there are lots of different species to be identified. Currently I do four or five trips in the NPF a year, and each trip is about 2-3 weeks. My longest trip was 34 days and involved working in waters around to the Western Australian side of the Top End, where the bycatch species varied to those found in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The AFMA Observers working in the NPF have recently been supporting industry with trials of a new bycatch reduction device that is attached towards the end of the net. The device is designed to allow fish to escape the net, while still retaining the prawns. Being able to play a role in testing innovations like new bycatch reduction devices is seriously rewarding, not only do I get to collect some of the data to determine the effectiveness of the device, but my job contributes to helping to maintain sustainable levels of fish stocks.

In addition to observing at sea, I’m also a member of AFMA’s Workplace Consultative Committee, which meets throughout the year. In this role, I relay any issues or improvement ideas that observers have about their ‘at sea’ workplace to this committee to help influence changes where any improvements are needed.

It’s a great way for the observers out in the field to improve processes and make changes. This is something that’s really important to me, to know that I’m doing my job effectively and in the most efficient way possible.

I really love what I do, I have a passion for observing and the fishing industry, and I highly recommend anyone thinking of becoming an observer to put their name on the temporary employment register to express interest in the role.

AFMA places observers on Commonwealth commercial boats in many Commonwealth fisheries to collect unique, 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.