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POPA is responsible for collecting scientific data while accompanying commercial fishing boats. Specific courses (see on line information) and equipment (GPS, binoculars, cameras) are given to observers which are integrated in our team in order to achieve this goal. Observers collect data through report sheets, specially designed by the POPA Scientific Council which includes several specialized researchers. The Program coordinator collects all the reports before evaluation and correction, and after that integrates the information in a major data base.
The Azorean tuna fleet consists of 18 boats (it used to be 30, in the late 1990’s) 28 meters long with crews of 14 to 16 men. Fishery occurs between May and November and each boat spends an average of 8 days at sea before landing. Each observer remains 30 days aboard before changing boat and should integrate himself during that period in the boat dynamics while collecting data through data sheets. There are several types of data sheets divided in two main groups: continuous records (transects, boat dynamics, etc) and events (pole and line fishery, live bait fishery, dolphin, turtle and seabirds sightings, etc).
Our observers’ team is mainly composed of contracted observers (trough independent workers regime). From time to time it can also include a small number of volunteers. Flight costs from Lisbon to the Azores and expenses are covered by the Programme as well as work insurance. Contracted observers are remunerated 1050€ per month. Candidates should be available at least for 1 month if they apply for volunteer work and 3 months if they apply for contract (priority is given to those available from May to October).
Azorean tuna fishing boats are not permanently restricted to regional waters. Some of them start their season on the Madeira archipelago (south to the Azores) where tuna occurs first due to its South to North migration. Accordingly to this fact, only 7 to 8 observers are included in the team in the beginning of the season. During the harvesting period and with more boats coming to regional waters, other observers can be included in order to monitor at least 50% of the fleet (minimum required by Earth Island Institute to certify the fishery).
emmanuel arand - doublefishdesigns.com