Fishery observers work on fishing vessels and onshore at processing plants collecting catch data and biological samples, and documenting interactions with protected species.

Working as a fishery observer is a unique job that takes place in some of the most remote, beautiful and pristine places on earth. It’s a job that provides opportunities to gain unparalleled field experience, and to contribute to something big – supporting the future health of some of the world’s greatest fisheries.

But being a fishery observer is not for everyone. It is an extremely challenging job.

Observing is a physically and psychologically demanding job that can include exposure to cold, wet weather, cramped quarters, and rough seas. Phone and internet access is typically not available, or only very limited, making it difficult to communicate with family or friends while at sea.

The rhythm of fishing often requires long, odd work hours with shifts ranging from 5 to 15 hours a day. Observers typically share a bunkroom with up to 6 crew members, and rarely get a full, uninterrupted night of sleep. Seasickness is common, and vessels are rarely smoke free. On top of that, shipboard life can also be stressful since the goals, priorities and backgrounds of the crew and the observer can be very different.

The most important trait Saltwater looks for in an observer is maturity, which includes common sense, patience, thinking before acting, and the ability to listen and understand people with different viewpoints. Possessing a flexible attitude and adaptability are critical, and our most successful observers are hardworking, tactful, self-confident, and really good communicators.

Observing Launches Success

Being an observer can help launch all sorts of careers. While Saltwater Inc. has many long-time observers who just can’t get enough of the ocean, we also have former observers who are now program managers, fisheries analysts, company vice presidents and more. Congrats to Clay McKean,  now working with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council!

Think you’ve got what it takes? Here’s how to apply:

• Review general requirements listed on this page to make sure you qualify;

• Review program-specific descriptions & qualifications for the fishery in which you’re interested;

• Gather your education transcripts (in electronic form) and apply today!


The above application applies to all observer programs. For program-specific requirements and full descriptions, click on the links below.

North Pacific Info Alaska Shellfish Info

West Coast Groundfish Info (TBA)

General Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in one of the natural sciences.
  • 30 credit hours in applied biology.
  • Minimum of one college level math and one statistics course.
  • College course using dichotomous (taxonomic) keys.
  • Background check and/or Criminal Disclosure Statement.
  • Recent Physical exam.
  • No direct financial interest in the fisheries.
  • Successful completion of appropriate training course.
  • Physically able to carry out observer duties.
  • Not prone to chronic or debilitating seasickness.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Previous experience as an observer
  • Previous experience in scientific data collection and data entry beyond college.
  • Previous ocean experience aboard boats.
  • Valid and current passport.


To be eligible to work as an observer, candidates must attend and pass an intensive 3-week class by NOAA Fisheries, or a State Fisheries Department, depending on the program. Saltwater selects candidates from qualified applicants, and pays for their time, meals, and room and board during training if they pass the class.

Program-specific Requirements

For details on specific the job requirements, click on the program’s job description:

How to Apply

  1. To make sure you qualify, review general requirements (above) and program-specific qualifications for the fishery in which you’re interested;
  2. Gather your education transcripts (in electronic form);
  3. Fill out and submit our Online ApplicationOpens in new window.


Once we verify your application and qualifications, we’ll contact you for an interview – via phone, video conference or in person.

If you have questions or are unable complete the online application, contact Saltwater for assistance:

Saltwater Inc. Recruiting
733 N Street Anchorage, AK 99501-3226
Phone: (907) 276-3241
Fax: (907) 258-5999