APO Focus Areas

Education and Outreach

One of APO’s primary objectives is to educate the public about the important role observers play in bringing fish to the table. Explore our website and learn about the fascinating, and sometimes unsavory, journey fish take to land on your plate.

Our education and outreach work at APO focuses on the dissemination of educational information related to the fishery observer profession; an increase in the utility of observer information and public access to it.  Our aim is to reach out to a range of stakeholders; to increase the checks and balances of those who manage the oceans and to facilitate more public participation in the management of our public fisheries resources.   

Information Requests from Governments

This is ongoing, but one that is a significant aspect of our work.  So much of the information in observer programs is currently unpublished.  Examples of Information requests we’ve filed with governments over the years:

  • APO annual requests for observer harassment
  • Privacy Act requests for observers to get information on their own records
  • Privacy Act requests on behalf of family members of deceased observers to get information about the circumstances involved to assist in their independent investigations.
  • Information request from the US government on NOAA’s Observer Information public access policy.
  • Requests for court records of cases involving the harassment of observers.


APO frequently receives requests from the Media for access to observers and observer information.  If observer programs were more transparent with observer information, there would be less speculation about the facts.  For instance, in Papua New Guinea, we have been unable to obtain information about observer deaths. The number of observer deaths  there range in the media from 4 to over 18.  

APO also liaises with observers to provide the level of anonymity desired when sharing their story with the media.  APO works with the media to publish the information provided by observers to mitigate any retaliation against them for speaking out.  Unfortunately, observers still remain extremely vulnerable to retaliation, and observers are reluctant to speak out for fear of retaliation from not only the fishing vessel personnel, but by the very agencies and employers who are charged to protect them.

APO recent publications, peer reviews, and news

  • Under review: A guide to Regional Observer Programmes of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
  • May 2021 – Human Rights At Sea information fact sheet about observers
  • May 2021 – Human Rights At Sea case study of Eritara Kaierua’s murder investigation
  • November 2020 – Human Rights At Sea report on HRAS survey of working conditions of Pacific observers
  • November 2020 – Human Rights At Sea report on recommended changes to Pacific Observer safety measures
  • July 2020 – Human Rights At Sea report on policy recommendations on observer safety in the Pacific
  • July 2020 – APO and Greenpeace submit a request for UN intervention to ensure effective and thorough investigation and to designate observers as Human Rights Defenders due to their role in securing national food resources.
  • May 2020 – An evaluation of Regional Fisheries Management Organization at-sea compliance monitoring and observer programs
  • February 2020 – Testimony before a US Congressional Hearing on Sexual Harassment at NOAA




Observer Data

The key to the sustainability of any fisheries is transparency about:

  • how fisheries observer programs are managed;
  • what observers collect, witness and experience – the biological data they collect; the violations and illegal fishing they witness; the harassment and interference they experience while doing their job; and some of the important scientific discoveries made by observers.
  • the actions agencies taken in response to the information observers collect.

Free public access allows for robust scientific analysis about the state of our fisheries.

Communicating with the public about fisheries observer information and data –  how, what and why observers collect certain information –  is another important aspect  of APO’s work.  Observers are not sitting in an office with lunch and coffee breaks and don’t go home to their families for months at a time. These things are a great personal sacrifice that many observers face, including literally risking their lives to provide fisheries managers with the necessary data to sustainably manage fisheries. This is why it is so important that observer programs are transparent.  Public access to fisheries observer data and information is a critical.

Observer Health, Safety, and Welfare

Besides working alongside fishermen in what is considered one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet, observers face additional hazards. Observers are generally not welcome on a vessel for a variety of reasons, but because they provide an independent source of what is actually occurring at sea, they are critical and must be protected. This area of APO’s work focuses on the necessary steps needed to protect observers to allow them to continue to do the difficult work with which they are tasked.

Observer Professionalism

This area of our work continues to unfold as we explore ways to foster professional development of observers. Observer professionalism is dependent upon access to basic worker rights – adequate training and field support (including adequate sampling and safety equipment); due process in conflict resolution – both at sea and in the office; and incentivizing positive behavior. There is no place for nepotism, discrimination, and other types of favoritism in observer treatment and deployment.