The 2023 Northeast Fisheries Science Center sea scallop survey has been canceled owing to mechanical difficulties with the survey vessel, the R/V Hugh R. Sharp. The Sharp is owned and operated by the University of Delaware, and has been chartered by NOAA Fisheries annually since 2008 for the sea scallop survey. The Sharp is part of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System federal research fleet.
The cruise was to occur May 13 to June 13. The Sharp encountered licensed engineering shortages and mechanical difficulties at the dock in its homeport of Lewes, Delaware before the cruise could leave. Repairs and sea trials were completed June 12. The cruise was rescheduled for 8 days, June 14 through 21, and the Sharp sailed on June 14 from Woods Hole, Massachusetts with the scientific crew. However, the ship encountered further mechanical failures at sea and returned to port on June 16, ending the NOAA cruise.
Data collected on sea scallop surveys are used to understand the distribution and abundance of this species. These data are key in developing quotas and area openings under the sea scallop fishery management plan.
Our sea scallop survey typically covers the Mid-Atlantic Bight and Georges Bank. It deploys a dredge to collect sea scallops and tows the HabCam. This instrument continuously photographs the ocean bottom habitat capturing images of sea scallops and other sealife.
To address data shortfalls, we are in contact with other groups who survey in the region through the Atlantic Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside Program. These groups have already conducted photographic and dredge surveys on parts of Georges Bank and in the Mid-Atlantic. They may be able to expand their survey plans to include additional dredge stations on Georges Bank and optical survey stations in the Mid-Atlantic.
We are working on contingencies for alternative survey platforms including use of the NOAA Ship Bigelow for sea scallop work. In July, we will be testing a new HabCam from the Bigelow, one that is an uncrewed underwater system, rather than one that is towed. We are also planning to test deploying the towed HamCam from the Bigelow on future cruises.