Due to the uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the unique challenges those are creating for NOAA Fisheries, we are cancelling four research surveys off the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States. The cancelled surveys include:
- Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey (NEFSC)
- Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey (NEFSC)
- Northern Shrimp Survey (NEFSC)
- Summer and Fall Plankton Survey (SEFSC)
These are difficult decisions for the agency as we strive to balance our need to maintain core mission responsibilities with the realities and impacts of the current health crisis.
Since March, we have been rigorously analyzing various options for conducting surveys this year and are taking a survey-by-survey, risk-based approach. After much deliberation, we determined that we will not be able to move forward with these surveys while effectively minimizing risk and meeting core survey objectives.
The Cancelled Surveys
The Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey is run out of the NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. It captures seasonal changes in the ocean environment, information used for multiple scientific inquiries. Over its 33-year history, some seasons have been missed and the number of annual surveys has varied, and methods have been developed to bridge these data gaps.
The Northern Shrimp Survey is conducted aboard the R/V Gloria Michelle, a 72-foot ship maintained by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. A major use of survey data is setting shrimp fishery quotas. The shrimp fishery is closed until 2021.
The Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey, also run out of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, has been conducted since 1963. It provides crucial resource and ecosystem data, especially for fishery stock assessments. A future bottom longline survey and new work on industry-based sources of data may help mitigate data gaps.
The Summer/Fall Plankton Survey is run out of NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center. It covers the entire continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico region from Brownsville, Texas, to Key West, Florida. It is the only fishery independent survey available to measure the spawning capacity of the adult population of Gulf of Mexico King Mackerel. It is an important supplemental survey for red snapper and several other reef fish.
These cancellations follow similar difficult cancellation decisions of the ship-based work we had planned from April to July. NOAA Fisheries is continuing to assess the status of other surveys in all our regions. We are working through numerous survey scenarios relative to community pandemic safeguards and safe work practices so that we maximize the science available for fisheries management in this challenging year.