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Globally, fisheries observer programs play an important role in either collecting scientific and biological data and/or report on compliance with fisheries legislation. In Namibia, the Observer Programme, as part of the Ministry Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) programme, was established in 1991. The programme was based in both Walvis Bay and Lüderitz, Namibia’s only two harbours. The (MCS) programme had two components vis-à-vis the land-based inspectorate, responsible for control and surveillance, and the observer programme, the monitoring arm.

Since its inception the Observer Programme deployed around 200 Observers (with around 40 females) to sea on board fishing vessels, from both stations in Walvis Bay and Lüderitz, covering about seven different fisheries types – ranging from trawl-, line- to ring and trap fisheries. Initially, the objective of the Observer Programme was to monitor compliance with the fisheries legislation. However in the mid 90’s the programme was extended to incorporate the collection of biological and scientific data.

The Observer were employed on a casual basis with no fringe benefits and paid only for the days spent at sea.