This study was undertaken to: (i) comprehend the observers’ perceptions of COVID-19 and identify its impacts on the observation of harvesting, handling, and processing of marine resources, and biological data collection during commercial fishing, (ii) assess the risk of contracting COVID-19 onboard the fishing vessels, (iii) compare fishery catches for the pre-COVID-19 (2018 and 2019) and COVID-19 (2020 and 2021) years, and (iv) suggest possible ways to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the activities of at sea-observations and data collection. Thus, 45 Namibian fisheries observers were interviewed by telephone to capture their perceptions of COVID-19 on the sea-observations and biological data collection. Messrooms were the riskiest places (45.7%) onboard the fishing vessel where observers perceived likely to contract COVID-19. For at-sea observations, 57.1% of the respondents felt that COVID-19 has negatively impacted observations as fisheries observers were risk-averse, especially in the processing factories. Half of the participants purported a negative impact on the collection of biological data, as on some vessels fisheries observers were not permitted to sample the fish supposedly for fear of cross-contamination. Analysis of fisheries observation data and fisheries catch data showed a significant difference in the total number of fishing trips made between 2018 and 2021 (X2=145.34, df = 3, p < 0.05), with a notable reduction in 2020 fishing trips. Similarly, the number of observed fishing trips between 2018 and 2021 differed significantly (X2=136.80, df = 3, p < 0.05). Fishing catches were lowest in 2020, possibly reflecting severe impacts of COVID-19 in that year. Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on at-sea observation and data collection can inform decision makers to improve management of marine resources during COVID-19 pandemic. Findings from this study can also serve as a lesson for nations that use observer data for stock assessment.

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