Fisheries Observers

CapMarine is an observer service provider with 18 years of experience in the provision of highly trained (to internationally accepted levels) ship-board and land-based marine scientific observers. Training and deploying scientific and compliance observers as well as delivering accurate data for real-time analysis, are the core functions of the Company.

CapFish initiated the national Offshore Resources Observer Programme (OROP) in South Africa which was the first of its kind in Africa and provided a comprehensive observer package in all the commercial fisheries sectors, including the national and foreign tuna longline sectors. From this platform, CapFish and CapMarine extended their observer capacity to include regional observer programs and provision of services to Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs).

International Observer Programs



Commission for the Conservation  of Antarctic Marine Living Resources

CCAMLR adopted a scheme of international scientific observation in 1992. The objectives of the scheme are to gather scientific information to assess the status of marine resources in the Antarctic and to determine the impact of fishing on exploited resources and the possible impact on other species dependent on the harvested resources. Following its formation in 1999 Capfish has deployed more than 100 observers onboard vessels targeting toothfish (Dissostichus spp) and icefish (Channichthyidae) in CCAMLR waters ranging around the Antarctic from the Ross Sea to South Georgia. Foreign countries that request observers are first required to negotiate a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MoU) with the South African government.


Indian Ocean Tuna Commission

The observers are deployed on the Carrier Vessels (CVs) to monitor the transhipment activities from Large-Scale Tuna Longline Vessels (LSTLVs). The long term objective of the program is to combat Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities in the IOTC area. Specific objectives are to encourage operators of illegal fishing vessels to operate within the legal framework of the IOTC and to enhance the quality and availability of catch data from LSTLVs to improve the scientific assessments of the commercially exploited stock of tuna and tuna-like species. The program started in 2009 and the observers cover 50% of the total deployments in the IOTC area.


International Commission of the Conversation of Atlantic Tunas

To combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing ICCAT implemented a Regional Observer Programme (ROP) for the transhipment activities of Large Scale Tuna Longline Vessels (LSTLV). The program involves placing an observer on a Carrier Vessel (CV) authorised to receive transhipments from the LSTLVs in the ICCAT convention area (Atlantic Ocean and adjacent areas). Observers are required to record the species identifications and number of products transferred from one vessel to another. They are also required to verify the longliners involved and logistical information of each transhipment conducted. The observer collates the records into a database and submits these to the ICCAT Secretariat.

National Observer Programs



The South African Deep-sea Trawling Industry Association

The SADSTIA observer program has been running successfully since November 2005 and continues to be an important source of scientific information that can be used to augment South African hake research and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) requirements. Since its implementation the SADTSIA observer program has been monitoring between 5 and 10% of the deepsea hake trawl fleet annually.


The South African Coast Inshore Fishery Association

Observers were first deployed in the inshore trawl fleet from 1995-2002. Following that, the Government initiated Offshore Resources Observer Program (OROP) was established and ran until 2012. The Industry-funded observer program, still in implementation today, was introduced in 2016 and its primary objective is to monitor the impact on seabirds. Secondary objective is to collect data on the the target and bycatch species, and in particular the ETP species and vulnerable marine ecosystem (VME) indicator species.


The South African Pelagic Fishery Industry Association

The small pelagic sector has been monitored by CapMarine observers since 2002. Observer coverage is approximately 10 to 15 % each year. In addition,  the industry is required to accommodate observers on 25% of trips in the anchovy B-season as well as on 100% of all “voorloper” vessels. Detailed reports are submitted to industry and government each month to supplement the biannual research cruises in the overall management of the resource.

midwater trawl vessel
Yellow-fin Tuna_0

Mid-water trawl

Horse mackerel – FV Desert Diamond

CapFish/CapMarine was the first service provider to deploy observers on the FV Desert Diamond. Under the OROP mandate from 2003 to 2011, CapMarine designed, trialed, implemented and ran the program. When OROP ended, DFFE took over observations until 2015. In 2016 CapMarine was again entrusted with the program and has been successfully managing it since then, this time deploying two observers and achieving 200% observer coverage.


The South African Tuna Association

Deployment of observers was required on 25% of South African flagged vessels in the pelagic longline fishery. Foreign flagged vessels operating in joint ventures with South African rights holders were required to accommodate observes for 100% of their operating time, at their own cost. Observers on foreign flagged vessels are deployed predominantly from Cape Town while South African registered vessels operate mainly out of Cape Town and Richards Bay on the KwaZulu Natal. A small number of deployments also take place from Hout Bay, Hermanus, Gansbaai, Port Elizabeth and Durban


The South African Hake Longline Association

The at-sea observer program is an integral component of SAHLLA’s pursuit to validate itself as a commercially viable sustainable fishing sector in South Africa. The program’s objectives are to provide information on the length-frequency of hake catches, the catch composition (including non-target species and discards), interactions with ETP species (emphasis on marine mammals), monitoring the use of bird-bycatch mitigation measures, support for scientific determination of updated bycatch species conversion factors, and comparison of current and historical observer data. Currently 45-50 hake-directed vessels are active within the fishery, most of which operate from the harbors of Cape Town and Hout Bay, with a small group operating out of Port Elizabeth and Saldanha Bay. CapMarine targets 2 deployments or approximately 15 sea days observed per month.