Optimisation of protocols employed by government observer for protected species data collection


Pierre, J. P., Thompson, F. N., & Mansfield, R. (2014). Optimisation of protocols employed by government observer for protected species data collection. Draft final report, Conservation Services Programme project INT2013-04, Department of Conservation, Wellington. 79 p. Retrieved from http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/conservation/marine-and-coastal/marine-conservation-services/meetings/optimisation-protocols-employed-by-nz-government-fisheries-observers-for-protected-species-data-collection.pdf


The deployment of independent fisheries observers is widely recognised as a key component of best practice fisheries management. In New Zealand, observers have been a critical component of the commercial fisheries management regime since the 1990s. The data collection approaches and protocols used by observers in New Zealand fisheries have generally become more detailed over time, as well as covering a greater number and diversity of protected species groups and fishing gears.

Here, we review the strategic framework that generates information needs that may be addressed by fisheries observers and evaluate current observer data collection protocols in that context. The review covers international and national agreements, legislation, policies, management plans, and international approaches to observer data collection, as well as manuals, briefing notes, protocols, and forms used by observers in New Zealand fisheries.

Broadly, the strategic documents reviewed focused on the achievement of sustainability in environmental management and/or the conservation of biological diversity. Information needs that creates for New Zealand in relation to commercial fisheries encompass the characteristics of the fishing operations, the nature and extent of protected species captures, the status of captured animals, the operational and environmental factors that may contribute to captures, and, measures in place to avoid or reduce captures.

Protocols and forms currently used by observers to collect data from New Zealand fisheries partially address these information needs. Scope for improvements includes ensuring clarity and consistency in observer instructions, the addition of new fields or amendments to current fields on current data collection forms, the creation of new forms to capture additional information, and, the discontinuation of forms, fields, and metrics that are redundant or no longer useful. Priority areas in which to improve information collection relate to longline gear and protected species bycatch mitigation, purse seine gear and protected species interactions, mitigation of seabird strikes on trawl warps, cryptic mortality of protected species interacting with commercial fisheries, and coral bycatch. However, the most significant current impediment to meeting information needs is the paucity of observer coverage achieved in some fisheries, especially smaller-vessel fisheries operating in inshore areas. Ultimately, this results in a piecemeal understanding of protected species interactions with New Zealand commercial fisheries and compromises New Zealand’s ability to deliver on domestic and international obligations. Regular review of the data collection approaches observers implement, combined with ensuring effective coverage of New Zealand commercial fisheries, will maximise the current and future benefits gained from observer deployments.