NAMMCO has since 1998 appointed international observers to monitor sealing and whaling activities in selected areas in NAMMCO member countries under the Provisions of the Joint NAMMCO Control Scheme for the Hunting of Marine Mammals.
In 2016 NAMMCO will have three observers following the minke whale hunt in Norway. An overview of annual observation focuses are given here.
The NAMMCO International Observation Scheme is managed by the NAMMCO Secretariat. Every year observers are contracted and travel to one or several of the NAMMCO member countries. The focus of the observation activities include the pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands and sealing and whaling activities in Iceland, Greenland and Norway. Observations take place on board vessels and on shore, in connection with flensing, storage and landing/delivering of the catch.
The purpose of the NAMMCO International Observational Scheme is to provide a mechanism to monitor the conduct and regulation of marine mammal hunting activities in the member countries, thus ensuring international transparency in whaling and sealing operations in the region.
Observers have no authority (of jurisdiction) and consequently cannot intervene in the hunting or other activities connected with the hunting.
Inspectors are authorized by its national authorities to exercise control and if necessary to intervene in the hunting or other activities connected with the hunting. This authority is dependent upon a legal basis, and thus dependent on the relevant national legislation.
The observers are formally appointed by the Council for each calendar year and are selected according to their qualifications from a list of candidates nominated by member countries. As a general rule, NAMMCO observers are required to have at least the same level of qualifications and training as national inspectors, and must be familiar with all relevant regulations in relation to the activities they observe.
The role of the observer is to oversee hunting activities and national inspection of these, in order to observe whether or not these are carried out in accordance with national legislation and decisions made through NAMMCO. Thus the observers must be given access to all objects of importance for the task at hand such as hunting permits, vessel logbooks, reports of catch, hunting equipment etc. NAMMCO observers are employed by, and responsible to, NAMMCO alone. They submit a written report to the NAMMCO Secretariat at the end of their assignment, but are otherwise required to maintain the confidentiality of their observations. Observers are required to report immediately any violations of the national regulations, but have no authority to intervene in hunting activities in any way. Actions with respect to possible infringements is the responsibility of the national control authorities. The Secretariat compiles an overview of observation activities each year for the annual review of the NAMMCO Council.
The provisions of the Joint NAMMCO Control Scheme was approved by NAMMCO Council in 1996, with the adoption of guidelines to Section B in 1997. A revision of the text was carried out in 2009 to incorporate new developments like electronic monitoring.