Alaska crab and scallop observers collect biological data while living onboard commercial fishing boats working in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska.
The shellfish and scallop fisheries are managed by quota, which is set by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). They use observer data to monitor crab populations, set catch limits, and monitor interactions with protected seabirds, fish, and corals.
The Bering Sea is a highly productive ecosystem which is home to enormous fish resources as well as many marine mammal and bird species. In addition, observers are likely to witness a wide array of specimens coming up in the crab pots, including starfish, halibut, Pacific cod, sponges, algae and more. Observer data is critical to ensuring that these fisheries remain sustainable.
Boats in the crab fleet range in size from 80-foot catcher vessels to 300-foot catcher/processors. Conditions vary widely — but all require observers to be flexible, resourceful, able to work long hours and do heavy lifting (up to 50 pounds). The workday is determined by the vessel’s fishing schedule and can range from 5-15 hours a day. Most of the assignments are based out of Dutch Harbor, St. Paul, King Cove or Akutan, Alaska. Trips can last from 5 to 30 days and multiple back-to-back deployments are not uncommon.
Observer contracts are typically for 90 to 120 days and can often be renewed many times. As with all our programs, we encourage—and reward—repeat contracts. For more details on the program and observer requirements, see the summary on right or visit the the ADF&G site.