In cooperation with the International Fisheries Observer and Monitoring Conference series, the Association for Professional Observers (APO) is hosting certain IFOMC-produced resources (links, web pages, and documents) here on the APO website. The IFOMC-mandated Observer Professionalism Working Group (OPWG) is not directly linked with APO, though is supported by APO. Look for updates here in OPWG’s work in regards to the 7th IFOMC.​

OPWG Mission

The mission of the Observer Professionalism Working Group (OPWG) is to investigate, categorize, and prioritize the international working knowledge of observer employment practices in order to outline principles that may foster the proficient professional development of fisheries observers, while working to ensure and strengthen the scientific and technical integrity of the fisheries observer profession and observer programs.


At-sea fisheries-dependent information is critical for the responsible management and conservation of living marine resources. Marine resource management regimes worldwide utilize observer programs for coordinating the observers who collect the at-sea field data necessary for achieving program-specific fisheries-dependent management objectives.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reports, “There is a direct relationship between the professionalism and morale of observers and the quality of the data they collect,” and the integrity of an observer program is directly linked to the professional ethics of its observers. The level of confidence and respect for an observer program that fisheries scientists, managers, policy makers, or any of those who utilize observer data have is dependent upon a program’s reliability at producing quality data outputs. Consequently, it is in the best interest of many of the stakeholders to attract, mold, and maintain a corps of highly ethical, knowledgeable, and skilled observers.

The OPWG was first established in June 2006 by the International Fisheries Observer and Monitoring Conference (IFOMC) series.

To view biographical profiles of all current and past members of the Observer Professionalism Working Group, link to OPWG Profiles.


Observer Professionalism Terminology
Follow this link to reference how the OPWG defines certain terminology important to the observer profession.

Existing Findings

2008 Observer Professionalism Working Group Report
Follow this link to the report holding all work conducted by the Observer Professionalism Working Group up until July 2008 (in association with the 5th Conference; Victoria, British Columbia; 2007). This report details: the group’s background and foundation, investigations made, a complete analysis of 2007/2008 OPWG findings, a list of recommendations, and an outlook into the future proceedings of the OPWG. Though the complete report is 87 pages long and may take some time to digest, the executive summary can be scanned in 5-10 minutes and includes a direct link to the OPWG Recommendations, summarized in the annex of the report.

OPWG Tools for Investigations

The primary tools utilized in OPWG investigations up until July 2008 have been:

  • Response to the 2007 OPWG Survey (this survey was opened January 2007, kept open during and for approximately five months following the 5th Conference held in Victoria, British Columbia; May 2007 and was closed as soon as Proceedings were published; October 2007)

  • Response to the 2007 World Fisheries Trust (WFT) Equity in Fisheries Observer Programs Questionnaire (this survey was opened May 2007 at the 5th Conference held in Victoria, British Columbia, and was closed as soon as Proceedings were published in October 2007)

  • Discussions during the 5th Conference OPWG break-out session and the conference closing session.

Continued Work

In the Group’s continued work leading up to the 6th Conference in the IFOMC series, the OPWG will be conducting focused interviews that work to dig deeper into certain evident priority observer professionalism areas.

For specifics regarding the continued work of each of the four committees comprising the OPWG (and to contact a committee directly), please navigate to each of the OPWG committee pages:

Wages and Benefits Committee
Support and Opportunities Committee
Employment Standards Committee
Social Equity Committee


Elizabeth Mitchell: