Fisheries observers

MPI observers collect information on board commercial fishing vessels. Find out about their work and how to join the team.

Observers critical to fisheries management

A fishery observer cutting a large fish to take samples on board a commercial fishing vessel.
Observer collecting biological information from a fish.

MPI observers help us to manage our fisheries sustainably. They collect information on board commercial fishing vessels to independently confirm data on fish being caught, and efforts to catch fish. They also collect information about:

  • working conditions
  • environmental interactions (like catching protected species)
  • fish biology.

Observer duties

Observer duties vary, depending on the vessel, but generally include collecting:

  • fish catch and catch effort data
  • biological data (like fish sex, size and weight)
  • samples from fish
  • information on vessel compliance
  • information about marine mammal and bird interactions
  • unusual specimens for museums.

We sometimes place 2 observers on a vessel, so they can monitor fishing activity 24 hours a day. But experienced observers usually work on their own.

Want to become an MPI fisheries observer?

You'll need:

  • good data collection and report writing skills
  • to be reliable, independent, mature and adaptable
  • to be able to work irregular hours under a range of conditions. 

Work may not be continuous

Work availability depends on fishing activity during the year. Because fishing activity varies, MPI can't guarantee continuous employment as an observer. Each period of employment is covered by a separate agreement. 

Observer agreements are usually for 3 to 6 weeks at sea, although some are for up to 3 months. 

Register your interest

If you think you have the skills we're looking for and want to join the team, register your interest online. We'll then get in touch with you when we need new observers.

Training provided

If you become an MPI fisheries observer, you'll get paid formal training to help you do your job. You'll need to successfully complete an intensive 3-week training course which is normally held in Nelson. The course covers:

  • sea safety and survival
  • collection and reporting of data and observations required at sea
  • species identification and sampling.

Who to contact        

If you have questions about becoming an observer, email

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