Training and ongoing development of observers

There is only one regional standard qualification for observers in the world – the Pacific Islands Regional Fisheries Observer (PIRFO) standards. It forms the basis for all the national observer programmes.

They were developed by the Fisheries Monitoring Section of the Pacific Community (SPC) working with members of SPC, the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), and the secretariat of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Many new observers are needed to help provide the data the WCPFC needs to fulfil its obligations and make better rules for fishing.

PIRFO provides certification and training standards. A 2015 working paper describes a long-term strategy for training and supporting observers, who contribute data that WCPFC uses in setting and updating fishing rules. It also discusses professional accreditation and the need to continue to develop standards.

The SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Programme has two areas of work that relate to observers’ work:

Documents useful for trainee observers include the CMM for the Regional Observer Programme, the ROP standards and guidelines, and observer handbook about the CMMs, and the PIRFO website.

People interested in training to be an observer can find out about an observer’s role in an FFA fisheries brief.


There is increasing focus on research and training to improve observers’ skills worldwide. Photo credit: Francisco Blaha.

Benefits of electronic monitoring

Electronic monitoring of vessels can complements the work that observers do on purse seine vessels, where 100% of fishing vessels have observers. It also supplements observation on longline fishing vessels, where less than 5% of ships have observers. SPC’s Neville Smith explains the benefits of electronic monitoring (2.28 mins).