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COVID-19 Could Reduce U.S. Fisheries Observers

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought havoc across every facet of the ocean industry, and fisheries are no exception, with the U.S. government recently issuing an exception to a rule that requires observers aboard fishing vessels.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, which oversees the fishing industry and makes sure fishermen are catching the right kinds and ages of fish so that stocks don’t get depleted, on Friday issued a temporary waiver to laws that mandate observers be aboard fishing ships “to address public health concerns relating to the evolving pandemic of Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19),” according to a notice in the U.S. Federal Register.

“Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting national and local declarations of emergency, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NMFS has determined that an emergency action is needed to enable NMFS to waive observer coverage and some related training and other program requirements. This emergency action would permit waivers in appropriate circumstances to protect public health and to ensure the safety of fishermen, observers, and other persons involved with observer coverage, while meeting conservation needs and providing an ongoing supply of fish to markets.”


“NMFS is taking this action to protect public health, economic security, and food security, and to safeguard the health and safety of fishermen, observers, and other persons involved with such monitoring programs, while safeguarding the ability of fishermen to continue business operations and produce seafood for the Nation. This action also authorizes NMFS to waive some training or other program requirements to ensure that as many observers are available as possible while ensuring the safety and The health of the observers and trainers.”

The waiver will be in effect from March 24th, 2020 through September 23rd, 2020. Any public comments on the waiver are due by April 27th, 2020.

Check out the full notice here.

John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.