Managing and deploying marine Observers is part of the core work conducted by CapFish. Globally, the use of Observers in fisheries and many other related marine activities where exploitation of natural resources is involved, is common practice. The nature of “Observer Programmes” can vary from country to country and by region. Commonly, countries with advanced fisheries management systems, run observer programmes to monitor and collect data from their domestic fisheries. Many countries, as we do in South Africa, have bilateral agreements with other fishing nations to deploy “independent” Observers on vessels of another country.

South Africa, for example has bilateral Observer agreements with New Zealand, Australia, America, Norway, Japan, Spain and others.  CapFish Observers are deployed on vessels from these countries from time to time, in most cases along with the Flag State Observer or sometimes on their own.  Many of these deployments are done under the auspices of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, or RFMOs.  Some of the Observer programmes that CapFish is involved in are:

A)  Offshore Resources Observer Programme:

We refer to this as our Domestic Programme. We work closely with Marine and Coastal Management (to whom we are contracted for this work) to deploy Observers in most commercial fishery sectors within the South African EEZ. These sectors  with approximate Observer coverage include 1) Hake Trawl (10%) ; 2) Hake Longline (10%); 3) Small Pelagic – Anchovy, Pilchard (10%); 4) South Coast Rock Lobster (20%); 5) Midwater Trawl – Horse mackerel (100%) 6) Tuna Longline – domestic (20%); 7) Tuna Longline – Foreign (100%) and 8) Patagonian Toothfish – Prince Edward Islands (100%). CapFish has the responsibility of training, preparing and deploying Observers in all of these sectors. Observer data are collated, captured in a database and submitted to MCM on a monthly or trip-by-trip basis.

B) Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR):

CapFish has an established working relationship with CCAMLR.  We are one of the largest Observer providers for countries fishing in CCAMLR waters. In particular we deploy Observers on longliners targeting Patagonian Toothfish and Antarctic Toothfish. We also provide Observers for boats licensed to fish  for Icefish and work collaboratively with our consortium partners, MRAG (UK) Ltd.  Areas deployed include the Ross Sea, MacDonald and Heard Islands, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and many other areas close to the Antarctic shelf.

C) International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT-ROP) and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission Regional Observer Programme (IOTC-ROP):

CapFish works in a consortium with MRAG (UK) Ltd to deploy Observers for ICCAT and IOTC on transhipment vessels in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Observers follow a strict sampling protocol to monitor tuna longliners fishing in ICCAT and IOTC regions. Monitoring involves tallying fish transfers from fishing vessel to mother vessels as well as many other checks such as vessel safety, declarations and vessel monitoring systems. Species monitored include the target species (yellowfin, bigeye, longfin, broadbill swordfish) as well as shark and other by-catch species.


D) The South African Deep-sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) Hake Research Programme:

CapFish fisheries consultants work closely with SADSTIA conducting specialist research on hake dynamics, providing research support specifically to meet Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) conditions for certification of the hake-trawl fishery as a sustainable fishery. This work includes a dedicated SADSTIA programme aimed at collecting data on hake trawling that includes by-catch and species splitting (inputting into the stock assessment of the fishery). This work also included the “ring-fencing” of trawl grounds and the evaluation of trawling intensity and impact on different substrate types.


F) Other Observer Programmes:

CapFish has been involved in many other Observer Programmes. We provided tagging and Cruise Leaders for the IOTC Tuna Tagging project (a two year programme) done collaboratively with McAllister Elliot and Partners in the UK. We regularly deploy specialist Observers for experimental research, such as in the squid fishery in the Eastern Cape (RSA), the deep-water trap rock lobster experiment (KZN) and red-eye pilchard and lantern fish experimental trawling

In addition we train and deploy Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) on seismic vessels conducting seismic surveys for hydrocarbons in South Africa, Namibia and Angola. Annually we have provided an Observer and monitoring service to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) for the Southern Bluefin Tuna purse seine fishery in the Australian Bight – these fish are caught annually for fattening up in cages in Port Lincoln (“Tuna Ranching”).