The Ministry’s Observer Programme fulfils an important role in fisheries management through the collection of data, assisting with stock assessment, and monitoring of the environmental impacts of fishing.
An annual plan outlines the coverage and data collection, and reporting targets for the Observer Programme. In 2008/09, the programme delivered 7,491 days at sea, an increase of 737 days on the coverage total achieved in the previous year.
A number of Observers are currently undertaking the NZQA-approved Observer Qualification training introduced last year. The Ministry expects that it will be another two years before the first Observers are fully qualified.
Following the decision in 2007/08 to change the method of data capture used by the Ministry’s Observers, the use of electronic laptops or ‘tablets’ to replace the paper-based system has proved very successful.
From an efficiency point of view, the electronic data entry negates the need for the Ministry to do on-shore data entry, providing a saving in both cost and time. When Observers return from trips the information can be downloaded and reviewed during debriefing.
Any issues arising can be resolved instantly. We can also run a quick validation on the data and it can be with users within the day. At certain times of the year that is quite critical for users. Using the previous paper-based system, transcription into usable data could often take from two to three months.
Use of the tablets has been well accepted by Observers. The electronic recording has improved efficiency, eliminated transcription errors, and provided immediacy of data for scientific use.