On August 13, deck boss Richard Clayton Palek was arrested and charged with a federal misdemeanor violation of a law that prohibits anyone from forcibly assaulting, resisting, opposing, intimidating, sexually harassing, bribing, or interfering with a fishery observer. Palek allegedly threatened and physically assaulted the observer.
According to Northwest Fisheries Observer Program manager, Jon McVeigh, a violent occurrence like this is rare. McVeigh tells OPB that observers carry out an important role throughout the United States fishing industry, and generally fishermen understand and respect that. Before the Northwest observer program was introduced in 2001, Pacific groundfish were being overfished. Observers serve as an unbiased and scientific second crew, tasked with collecting data on things such as bycatch, catch composition, and gear configuration.
Here’s an Oregon Field Guide story from 2011 about the groundfish catch-share system — and an observer on a boat.
- Jon McVeigh: Northwest Fisheries Observer Program Manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- Brad Pettinger: Director of the Oregon Trawl Commission