In response to the spread of COVID-19, NOAA Fisheries issued an emergency action to provide the authority, on a case-by-case basis, to waive observer coverage, some training, and other program requirements while meeting conservation needs and providing an ongoing supply of fish to markets. We are taking this emergency action to protect public health and to ensure the safety of fishermen, observers, and others.
Under this emergency action, a NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator, Office Director, or Science Center Director has the ability to waive observer requirements in three specific circumstances, after consulting with observer providers. The three circumstances are:
- The providers do not have sufficient observers to staff a fleet or a port or a vessel (i.e., the observers are under quarantine).
- The providers cannot physically get observers to fishing vessel departure points – perhaps because of travel restrictions, or shelter in place guidance, etc.
- The providers do not have enough trained observers because we could not offer training due to building access restrictions, meeting guidance, etc.
If observer requirements are waived, the agency will monitor fishing effort and catch data and other relevant information to ensure that there are no significant adverse environmental consequences and consider alternative fishery management measures should such consequences arise.