Sea time as a Fisheries Observer

Hi, I had seen a couple topics created about this previously with no outcome documented, so I am bringing this up again. I will be working in the Bering Sea as a fisheries observer contracted through NOAA/NMFS. I read online that observers are not legally considered “seamen” due to insurance coverage issues and related costs to boat owners. I would like to get my captain’s license someday and was hoping to use my observing time towards the required sea time. I am checking with my local Coast Guard office, but thought I would ask here as well.

Thanks for any input!

The short answer is no. You are not suppose to get seatime for being an observer.

You may be able to use it for an endorsement as Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV, aka "six-pack’), but not anything else. The requirements for that endorsement are “experience in the operation of vessels.” For all other endorsements, the regulations specify service tin the deck department or in a specific capacity on a vessel. You would not meet those.


Ok, the six-pack is actually what I was thinking of getting. I will definitely try to keep track of the vessels I am on just in case I can use them. But, am thinking about feeling out the situation before I ask for the captain to fill out more paperwork! Thanks for your input.

This form might be useful.

That interpretation is extremely liberal if applied to observers. I don’t see how an observer focusing on fish stocks with no crew duties can qualify as gaining experience in the operation of a vessel. “Experience in the operation” sounds pretty clear cut. An observer can acquire a general knowledge of operations by watching but experience is gained by doing.

Thank you!

Valid point. Thanks for giving me a different perspective.

Don’t let my comment discourage you. It was directed at jdcavo because I think the interpretation is a stretch but he is in a better position than I am to say what the CG may accept for a OUPV. I do know they accept time spent operating your own private boat toward that license. Make sure you keep good records.