The marine environment is experiencing increased human-induced stress, compounded by natural and human-induced (global warming) climatic changes. “Freedom of the sea” is no longer a viable option as marine resources become increasingly scarce. Both fishermen and managers must work cooperatively and diligently to monitor the existing limited resources. In order to effectively monitor a fishery, managers need to quantify how much is removed from the sea. Observer programs are the best way to achieve this objective and without them, managers are operating on guesswork. Observer data is used throughout the globe by conservation groups, international agencies, economists, and a wide array of scientists. Almost all of the catch values from commercial fishing vessels cited in publications by these institutions originate from observer program data. Self-reporting of catch data has proven to be inaccurate and ineffective in monitoring stocks. This is because most fishermen are concentrating on commercially valuable species, boat maintenance and compliance to those regulations that are easily and most often checked by enforcement officials. There is a prevailing naivety throughout societies regarding the true cost of eating fish. This must be addressed by fisheries economists so that vital monitoring systems don't fall by the wayside.
Mitchell, E.A. The Necessity of Observer Programs in the World’s Fisheries. In: Microbehavior and Macroresults: Proceedings of the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade, July 10-14, 2000, Corvallis, Oregon, USA. Compiled by Richard S. Johnston and Ann L. Shriver. International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade (IIFET), Corvallis, 2001.