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Observer-based fisheries monitoring

Fisheries monitoring may seem like an odd pursuit for a charity, but this work has proven again and again to fit the mission of Ecotrust Canada. Not only is accurate and timely data collection an essential part of achieving environmental sustainability in the commercial fishing industry, but so is working as a third party with coastal community partners including First Nations, industry, and regulators to collect and report information on this common resource.

Through our work with fish harvesters in coastal communities, we’ve realized that developing locally-based fisheries monitoring programs is a prime opportunity for improving local economic sustainability.

Community Benefit

Our industry, community, and First Nations partners highlighted a need for better fisheries infrastructure in coastal communities. Our Observer programs fit into our suite of locally-led monitoring, and compliance.

Community-based Observer monitoring brings a host of benefits, including:

  • Providing employment for local residents
  • Building local fisheries expertise
  • Building local capacity to engage with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in monitoring, compliance, and other opportunities
  • Establishing a working relationship between DFO, First Nations, Industry, and local residents
  • To date, the majority of our Observer-based work has been in partnership with First Nations and other communities adjacent to fishing areas. These partnerships allow us to offer training programs and monitoring services throughout coastal BC, building a pool of locally-based Observers who can monitor the waters they know best.

Industry Benefit

Typical Observer monitoring programs can cost a fish harvesters tens of thousands of dollars each season – a real make-or-break expense for a struggling enterprise.

By employing local Observers, fish harvesters:

  • Don’t have to pay for technicians to be flown in
  • Keep money in their own communities
  • Build local industry support
  • Keep local fisheries knowledge alive and well

At-Sea Observer Program

We are a DFO-designated At-Sea Observer Program service provider for BC’s salmon and crab fisheries. Our Observers come from the communities on whose doorsteps the fishery operates. All Observers are trained and DFO-certified.

Dockside Monitoring Program

We are also a DFO-designated Dockside Monitoring Program service provider for BC’s salmon, groundfish and halibut fisheries. As with our at-sea program, our dockside Observers are fully trained, DFO-certified, and hail from nearby communities.


Biosampling services may be added to any monitoring program as needed. All of our at-sea Observers are trained to collect biological samples if the monitoring program requires it.

Electronic monitoring

We built a proof-of-concept design in 2011 based on open source technology to improve self-monitoring within the Area A crab fishery in northern BC. Over the years this small-boat scaled monitoring technology has expanded. In 2019 the prototype spun out into a social enterprise — Teem Fish Monitoring. We continue to work with them today.