Any Fisheries Observers Out There?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by emulkahi1, Jan 17, 2007.

  1. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    Hey All--

    I am going to be going to Anchorage this Feb. for the 3 week training to become certified as a fisheries observer. Basically (if I pass the training, lol :baby04: ) I would be going out on the fishing boats that leave out of AK's various ports, and gathering biological data about their catches. This information then gets turned over to agencies like NMFS (Nat'l Marine Fisheries Service) so that they can get an objective look at the status of the various fisheries.

    The job requires a bio degree, and has one working away from home for several months at a time. But lodging, training, food and all of those other expenses are taken care of while you are there, and the pay is decent enough. I am hoping that I will be home in time to get my garden started for this growing season.

    But anyway, I know that some of you out there have some interesting jobs to help support the 'homesteading' lifestyle, so I thought maybe someone out there might have some experience in this particular field.

    Erin :)
     
  2. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    We live in Alaska, my husband works in Anchorage. He is a biologist with Fish & Game (State). He has done observation posts in the past (both for the State and for other contractors).

    For whom will you be working directly? Didn't know there was a certification to observe... What do you hope to do with this certification?
     

  3. freeinalaska

    freeinalaska Well-Known Member

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    I have not been a fisheries observer, nor a fisherman, but I have know many observers and fisherman. I also lived in Dutch HArbor, Alaska's largest fishing port. When the observer program first got started the observers were though of as the enemy and were treated as such making for a long stint at sea. Now they are more of a necessary evil in the eyes of the fishing crews and are treated better.

    The observers I knew that had the best trips were the ones that showed a desire to learn a bit about seamanship and made themselves useful in the daily tasks necessary to run a fishing vessel. In Dutch Harbor the observers had fine accomodations on shore and seemed to be well taken care of. Women were in general more welcomed aboard the boats than men. (Go figure.) I think it would be a great endeavour for any young biologist who was looking for a bit of adventure and who was willing to do more than the required job at hand.
     
  4. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    Wow! I am excited to hear that there are those out there that have heard of this job before :) ! Hoofinit, I'll be working for a company called Saltwater, Inc. I don't know if someone that did observing directly through F&G would need the same certifications, maybe, maybe not? I am not sure. The training takes place at UAA and I think it is run by NMFS. As far as I know, everyone hired through the companies that 'supply' observers to the fishing boats has to go through it (but again, I could be wrong...no first hand experience here yet).

    Freeinalaska, I have also heard about those mixed opinions of observers. And that women tend to have an easier time of it in that department. I was worried at first about that (likely being the only girl on a boat full of gruff guys), but then, I've heard that almost 50% of observers are actually women, so I guess it must work out alright (at least most of the time :shrug:. I hope so anyway). It is reassuring to hear that the accomodations in Dutch Harbor are nice. I am looking forward to seeing that town. The pictures I've come across of it show some spectacular scenery!! Thank you also about the advice re: being willing to learn the basic seamanship skills, etc. I am also really looking forward to that aspect of the job...It will be much different than anything else I've done before, so I want to make sure I take advantage of every opportunity to learn as much interesting stuff as I can :).

    Thank you both for your replies. I am looking forward to this and figure, if nothing else, it will be an adventure (hopefully not one where I'm seasick 100% of the time, lol :p ).

    Erin
     
  5. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    What type of fish will your fishermen be going after? Pretty much if you aren't on a crabber you're a LOT safer (as far as weather & open seas go).

    I'll ask my husband about this program. He also did his MS observations/research with NOAA (& I think Coast Guard). That was a whole lot different than the observer stint he did for a contractor (more like what you're probably doing) on a ship with like two or three other people. He's also done ones with ADF&G (state) for his job - gone out to do trawling surveys, etc. Lots of other similar jobs like quota checks, sampling, and tagging, etc. I don't think he ever had to do an NMFS training but I could be wrong or they could have changed the requirements...

    emulkahi1 - I guess what I was asking was what are you planning to do with this certification once you have it - in the career field after school?
     
  6. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    hoofinit--I'll look forward to hearing what your hubby has to say. It sounds like he'll probably have some really good info on the ins and outs of all of this.

    As far as what I'm planning to do w/ the certification...As far as I know, the certification is only good for observing. If that makes sense....I guess what I mean is that the only thing that it qualifies me to do is what I will be doing with it. I graduated from college back in 2000, so I have been out of school for a while already. I am just hoping that I haven't forgotten too much of what I learned with my bio degree :help: :p! Not sure what I'll end up doing in the future...I have heard though that the observing gives good 'field work' experience for resumes, so I am hoping that whatever job I might be interested in in the future, it will help me get it. DH and I currently live in central MT, but have done some work up in AK w/ the small business that we own. Have you ever heard of the AK SeaLife Center, down in Seward, AK? We've spent some time in their labs (maintaining their microscopes) and I always thought it would be an amazing place to work (got the behind the scenes tour once....very cool :)). I check their job listings from time to time, and I think that the experience from this (the observer position) would definitely be a plus if I did ever apply there. Anyway, just some of my random thoughts..... :baby04:

    Erin :)
     
  7. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    Ah, I see. Well, depends on what you want to do but observing for biologist jobs doesn't do a whole lot. It helps, but is usually seen with interns or pre-graduatation students usually applying for lower level jobs. Upper level biologist jobs, at least up here, have to have some quantitative experience where you are forecasting populations, etc. or know how to run sampling programs. When my husband gets home I'll try to convince him to come on here and set us all straight (me included, lol).
     
  8. Pouncer

    Pouncer Well-Known Member

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    Well I too, have worked in Dutch Harbor, and Sand Point too. Make sure you ask someone about the 1000 yard stare ;) Untold numbers of birds, and sea life, just astounding in some areas.

    First thing about the Aleutians-no trees to speak about. Most anything you see has been planted by someone. Incredible, stunning play of light on water and land though...you will go through a lot of film. Yes there is housing in Dutch Harbor, etc, but it's not exactly the Hilton. Think more like Motel 6, lol

    The seas are dangerous, there is a reason that those jobs are considered the most hazardous in the US. But, most likely you will be on a larger tender or processor, or something, the bigger the hull, the safer you are (in general).

    Take your survival training seriously, and listen to the crew and I am sure you will enjoy your experience. Everyone who has spent time out there along the chain will never forget it.
     
  9. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    Ah, Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. Lovely to visit for a day or so! I've stayed overnight a time or two, even in an old ratty bunkhouse! Accomodations being nice? Well that depends... will you be staying in the newly built bunkhouses (about 2-3 years old) or the Grand Aleutian hotel (first class I hear) or staying ... elsewhere? :D
     
  10. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    OK - my husband says that having it on your resume will be good ENTRY LEVEL indications that you've at least been in the field some, know a little about SOME Alaskan saltwater species, and basically are willing and hopefully able to live in a cruddy environment for a while. He says that it shows you are willing to make the sacrifice to get experience. He agrees with what I've said--to get upper level jobs it won't do much for you without some quantitative skills & experience or management skills/experience.

    He says that from what he knows of these programs (based on info. from about 10 years ago), they are HARD work in a MISERABLE environment for not a lot of pay. Now that is always relative and it may be great pay for someone that comes up here for a few months to work, room & board included, and then goes home somewhere that the cost of living is way cheaper, with a boatload of money to spend there. :p

    Hope that helps. It would be better to know what kind of job you're working toward (the more specific the better) and then give you advice on how to get there. :)

    On the Sealife Center, yes I know of it.

    What is your business that you mentioned running?
     
  11. lonelytree

    lonelytree Guest

    hoofinitnorth - Does your hubby work on Raspberry? If so we work very close. Lots of boats are Kitty Powered ya know. If he knows pike, I will even buy him lunch at Sarah's.

    erin - I hope you do better then the poor girl in Seward. She was working 14 hours a day cutting "ear bones" out of halibut. Her main comment was that the pay was not very good for the first few years. I believe that everyone that I have talked to said that you have to really pay your dues before the money starts, but that it can be very rewarding. If you like the outdoors you may have found a great career.

    I talk to the Coast Guard almost daily from Cordova, Kodiak and Homer. They seem to be great people.

    Commercial fishermen are a unique breed. Thats all I have to say about that.

    Good luck!
     
  12. perennial

    perennial Well-Known Member

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    I grew up in MA and worked partime for a bit when i was very young at one of noaa's science departments and had the opportunity to go one summer for 10 days on one of their research vessels out of woodshole, and the crew of the boat caught the fish and then we had to slice them open and check the bellies. Everyone else that went was a true scientist. It was very hard work - we had 6 hour shifts on and 6 off and that included our sleep time - it wasn't pretty! In our free time, we could filet fish to bring home, so i did bring home lots.

    We then hit such a huge storm little me on my top bunk was tossed out between the ceiling and guardrail the waves were so big.


    Such a long time ago -------- ahhhhhhhhh youth.


    Good luck with your new endeavor
     
  13. Meg Z

    Meg Z winding down

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    I have a friend who did that last season. He said he didn't realize he was a sea-sicker until then. He decided it wasn't his cup of tea afterall!

    Meg
     
  14. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    :) Hoofinit--Thanks so much for asking your DH about this for me...I really appreciate that, as well as his words of wisdom (and yours, of course!!). :) The business that my DH and I run (there are 2, really) sells and maintains/repairs optical equipment (mostly microscopes) in university, hospital, clinic, etc labs. He also sells firetrucks, which is kind of a random combination I know, lol.

    As for my career goals....That is a very good question. One I don't really have an answer for :help: :p. I know that I despise desk work, love the outdoors and hands-on work. I guess I am up for anything...if it sounds like an interesting opportunity, I'm willing to give it a shot...see if it is my thing (or not). I've worked for the past 4 or so years with our business here, and I feel too hemmed in. I want to get out there again and do my own thing, use my bio degree and see some new sights.

    So, as unfocused as that might sound (lol), I guess my objective for this observer job might be wrapped up in there somewhere :baby04:. I am preparing myself for hard work in not so nice conditions (thank you all for the warnings!! I'd rather know ahead of time than be surprised!), but also for some amazing sights and some unusual experiences.

    Erin
     
  15. fishhead

    fishhead Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I would expect conditions to be a bit uncomfortable but just remember that it's temporary. A housemate of mine did that for a while. He didn't think it was too bad.

    What are you going to be looking at? Species? Sizes? Stomach contents?
     
  16. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    lonelytree - Indeed he does work on Raspberry. :D Dunno what he knows of pike except that they are getting to be everywhere and he used to fish a lot of lakes on the Kenai Peninsula during his upbringing and ran into a few big 'uns there...

    I'm afraid I'm ignorant on this - what's "Kitty Powered"?

    Ah yes, the dreaded otolith sampling - at least the gal in Seward you mentioned didn't have to sort through salmon carcasses (Ew!) while being "watched" (VERY CLOSELY) by hungry brown bears. My husband could tell you some hair-raising stories of his experiences doing that for the State the last couple of years.

    The closest I've come to that (for pay) was to take scale samples from commercial catches for the State - licking scales and stickin' 'em to gum cards - YUM! :D

    pouncer - I forgot that you had been out to Dutch too!

    perennial - NOAA has some great programs, particularly for graduate students. My husband did some obervations with them for his masters thesis way back in the day. :) I must be a scientist too - I always want to see what the fish I've caught have been eatin'. :p

    Meg Z - if you go out with NOAA or the Coast Guard they have GREAT medics that are totally prepared for this and can knock sea-sickness right out for most people! Amazing!

    emulkahi1 - sounds like you have the "Alaskan spirit" - go for it! Didn't mean to scare you away or make it sound like you had to get something out of it, I'm just the type that always plans ahead as best I can and hates to see people waste their time in one vein if they can do better in another. Doesn't sound like the case for you.
     
  17. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    :help: LICKING scales??! LOL...That is not a yummy thought at all :baby04: :p!!

    Thank you all very much for your replies!! I've really enjoyed reading through everyone's input, advice and anecdotes. And nope hoofinit, you didn't scare me off at all. I've been appreciating hearing your words to the wise. I always prefer knowing as much as possible from first-hand accounts before going into something. That way I can mentally prepare myself (or try anyway!) and not be as surprised if something is unpleasant, uncomfortable, or the like.

    Fishhead--I think that they'll have us sampling some of each of those things you mentioned....though I am not sure about stomach contents. Maybe? I think catch location is an important thing, as well as the quantity of each species caught.

    The company that hired me has a website with more info, if anyone is interested in checking it out. It is www.saltwaterinc.com They even have little 2 min videos and other things like that. Kinda cool....

    Erin :)
     
  18. lonelytree

    lonelytree Guest

    Your hubby works about 2 blocks from me. He figured out where I work by where my company is building a new store in the valley in another post. It is just past SBS on the Parks Hwy, north side of the road. ;)

    I ran into the scale lickers at Chitna by Obrien Creek a couple years ago. Real nice folks. One was a teacher in Palmer doing his summer job. No bears, but seagulls everywhere.
     
  19. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    OK, so I gotta ask, lol. Is this scale licking a figurative description.........or a literal one :help:?!

    Erin :hobbyhors
     
  20. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    Literal - you pluck a scale from a particular place on the fish's body, wipe off the silvery coating, lick it to wet it, then stick it to a gum card. Mmmm, mmmm good!