(a)Applicability. NMFS may select for at-sea observer coverage any vessel that has an Atlantic HMS, tunas, shark or swordfish permit issued under § 635.4 or § 635.32. Vessels permitted in the HMS Charter/Headboat and Angling categories will be requested to take observers on a voluntary basis. When selected, vessels issued any other permit under § 635.4 or § 635.32 are required to take observers on a mandatory basis.
(b)Selection of vessels. NMFS will notify a vessel owner, in writing, when his or her vessel is selected for observer coverage. Vessels will be selected to provide information on catch, bycatch and other fishery data according to the need for representative samples.
(c)Notification of trips. The owner or operator of a vessel that is selected under paragraph (b) of this section must notify NMFS, at an address designated by NMFS, before commencing any fishing trip that may result in the incidental catch or harvest of Atlantic HMS. Notification procedures and information requirements such as expected gear deployment, trip duration and fishing area will be specified in a selection letter sent by NMFS.
(d)Assignment of observers. Once notified of a trip, NMFS will assign an observer for that trip based on current information needs relative to the expected catch and bycatch likely to be associated with the indicated gear deployment, trip duration and fishing area. If an observer is not assigned for a fishing trip, NMFS will issue a waiver for that trip to the owner or operator of the selected vessel, so long as the waiver is consistent with other applicable laws. If an observer is assigned for a trip, the operator of the selected vessel must arrange to embark the observer and shall not fish for or retain any Atlantic HMS unless the NMFS-assigned observer is aboard.
(e)Requirements. The owner or operator of a vessel on which a NMFS-approved observer is embarked, regardless of whether required to carry the observer, must comply with §§ 600.725 and 600.746 of this chapter and—
(1) Provide accommodations and food that are equivalent to those provided to the crew.
(2) Allow the observer access to and use of the vessel's communications equipment and personnel upon request for the transmission and receipt of messages related to the observer's duties.
(3) Allow the observer access to and use of the vessel's navigation equipment and personnel upon request to determine the vessel's position.
(4) Allow the observer free and unobstructed access to the vessel's bridge, working decks, holding bins, weight scales, holds, and any other space used to hold, process, weigh, or store fish.
(5) Allow the observer to inspect and copy the vessel's log, communications logs, and any records associated with the catch and distribution of fish for that trip.
(f)Vessel responsibilities. An owner or operator of a vessel required to carry one or more observer(s) must provide reasonable assistance to enable observer(s) to carry out their duties, including, but not limited to:
(1) Measuring decks, codends, and holding bins.
(2) Providing the observer(s) with a safe work area.
(3) Collecting bycatch when requested by the observer(s).
(4) Collecting and carrying baskets of fish when requested by the observer(s).
(5) Allowing the observer(s) to collect biological data and samples.
(6) Providing adequate space for storage of biological samples.