On November 14, Northeast Fisheries Science Center staff finished the 2019 fall bottom trawl survey aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. Those aboard conducted resource survey tows and temperature and salinity sampling at 347 of 377 planned stations (92 percent completion). They finished plankton tows at 93 of 116 planned stations (80 percent completion.)
The fall survey occurs in four legs, ranging from 10 to 18 days, beginning in the south and finishing in the north.
The survey got underway as planned on September 3. Hurricane Dorian affected Leg 1, and there were several other strong storms that passed through the region during this year’s survey. The success of the survey given the challenging weather is a testament to the ship’s officers and crew, and to the scientists from the Center and other institutions.
Temperature and salinity profiles collected during the survey help link fish distribution to physical oceanographic conditions. Ichthyoplankton (larval fish and eggs) collected help with understanding spawning distributions and with estimating changes in fish abundance. Zooplankton (tiny animals and immature stages of some larger ones) collected tell researchers about the ocean food web. They are used to construct models that support ecosystem-based fisheries management.
The NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow supports a variety of marine research. However, the multispecies bottom-trawl survey is the most important of its missions for monitoring the region’s fishery resources, and is the longest running of its kind in the world. Data collected are used to monitor the distribution and relative abundance of fish and invertebrate species on the continental shelf and upper slope of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean.