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Review of the observer programme and observer data: 2002-2009

Data collection on fishing practices, catches and methods is necessary for the successful management of fisheries worldwide. There are various sources of data, such as skipper’s logbooks and independent surveys which can be used collectively to make management decisions. Even so, some vital information is often missing, for example discards and actual fishing practices. To overcome this challenge, observers can be used. They are able to collect independent data that cannot be obtained by any other means, and perform additional activities including education and the raising of awareness. In South Africa, the Offshore Resources Observer Programme (OROP) was developed with the mandate to collect additional information for fisheries management and has been underway since 2002. A large amount of valuable information has been collected, but has mostly been under-utilised as a management tool.

This project aims to review OROP and establish how the data can be used more effectively as well as to highlight valuable information, identify shortcomings and provide recommendations for the future of the programme. In order to review the programme key stakeholders were identified and interviewed to obtain their views about the programme. The observer data were reviewed to determine how they could most effectively be used in fisheries management and to identify short-comings in the data collection process. The data review was conducted using case studies to determine the usefulness of the data collected.

The review showed that the data can be used to inform fisheries management on species composition of catches, species separation as well as provide additional information for stock assessment analysis. In addition, data can also be used to inform on other important aspects such as compliance with permit regulations. The programme has allowed for job creation and skills upliftment as well as providing valuable information and creating awareness about the marine environment for all involved in the fishery. There are, however, some challenges facing the programme. These include a lack of effective management and data usage as well as poor communication between the stakeholders.

Some adjustments are recommended in the continuation of the programme. Suggestions include longer tenures and continuity, which in turn would improve aspects of data quality and observer training. Greater communication is needed between all stakeholders to ensure better understanding of the program by all involved. If correctly used, collected data can be used to improve fisheries management.


A letter was sent to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries from the RFA with recommendations for an improved implementation of OROP. Find this letter below.



  1. RFA letter to DAFF Minister re OROP (243.1 KiB)