(a) Applicability. This section applies to any fishing vessel required to carry an observer as part of a mandatory observer program or carrying an observer as part of a voluntary observer program under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.), the ATCA (16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.), the South Pacific Tuna Act of 1988 (16 U.S.C. 973 et seq.), or any other U.S. law.
(b) Observer safety. An observer will not be deployed on, or stay aboard, a vessel that is inadequate for observer deployment as described in paragraph (c) of this section.
(c) Vessel inadequate for observer deployment. A vessel is inadequate for observer deployment if it:
(2) Has not passed a USCG Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examination, or for vessels less than 26 ft (8 m) in length, has not passed an alternate safety equipment examination, as described in paragraph (g) of this section.
(d) Display or show proof. A vessel that has passed a USCG Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examination must display or show proof of a valid USCG Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examination decal that certifies compliance with regulations found in 33 CFR Chapter 1 and 46 CFR Chapter 1, and which was issued within the last 2 years or at a time interval consistent with current USCG regulations or policy.
(1) In situations of mitigating circumstances, which may prevent a vessel from displaying a valid safety decal (broken window, etc.), NMFS, the observer, or NMFS' designated observer provider may accept the following associated documentation as proof of the missing safety decal described in paragraph (d) of this section:
(i) A certificate of compliance issued pursuant to 46 CFR 28.710;
(ii) A certificate of inspection pursuant to 46 U.S.C. 3311; or
(e) Visual inspection. Upon request by an observer, a NMFS employee, or a designated observer provider, a vessel owner or operator must provide correct information concerning any item relating to any safety or accommodation requirement prescribed by law or regulation, in a manner and according to a timeframe as directed by NMFS. A vessel owner or operator must also allow an observer, a NMFS employee, or a designated observer provider to visually examine any such item.
(f) Vessel safety check. Prior to the initial deployment, the vessel owner or operator or the owner or operator's designee must accompany the observer in a walk through the vessel's major spaces to ensure that no obviously hazardous conditions exist. This action may be a part of the vessel safety orientation to be provided by the vessel to the observer as required by 46 CFR 28.270. The vessel owner or operator or the owner or operator's designee must also accompany the observer in checking the following major items as required by applicable USCG regulations:
(1) Personal flotation devices/ immersion suits;
(2) Ring buoys;
(3) Distress signals;
(4) Fire extinguishing equipment;
(5) Emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB), when required, shall be registered to the vessel at its documented homeport;
(6) Survival craft, when required, with sufficient capacity to accommodate the total number of persons, including the observer(s), that will embark on the voyage; and
(7) Other fishery-area and vessel specific items required by the USCG.
(g) Alternate safety equipment examination. If a vessel is under 26 ft (8 m) in length, and in a remote location, and NMFS has determined that the USCG cannot provide a USCG Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examination due to unavailability of inspectors or to unavailability of transportation to or from an inspection station, the vessel will be adequate for observer deployment if it passes an alternate safety equipment examination conducted by a NMFS certified observer, observer provider, or a NMFS observer program employee, using a checklist of USCG safety requirements for commercial fishing vessels under 26 ft (8 m) in length. Passage of the alternative examination will only be effective for the single trip selected for observer coverage.
(h) Duration. The vessel owner or operator is required to comply with the requirements of this section when the vessel owner or operator is notified orally or in writing by an observer, a NMFS employee, or a designated observer provider, that his or her vessel has been selected to carry an observer. The requirements of this section continue to apply through the time of the observer's boarding, at all times the observer is aboard, and at the time the observer disembarks from the vessel at the end of the observed trip.
(i) Effect of inadequate status. A vessel that would otherwise be required to carry an observer, but is inadequate for the purposes of carrying an observer, as described in paragraph (c) of this section, and for allowing operation of normal observer functions, is prohibited from fishing without observer coverage.