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2021 Northeast Spring Bottom Trawl Survey Completed

July 02, 2021

From March 13 to May 27, researchers sampled at 317 stations.

Aerial view of two crew members wearing hard hats at the rail on the main desk of the research vessel. They stand ready to snag a piece of water sampling equipment as it is raised from the water by a winch, using gaffs designed for this purpose.

On May 27, Northeast Fisheries Science Center staff finished the 2021 spring bottom trawl survey aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. Those aboard conducted resource survey tows and temperature and salinity sampling at 317 of 353 planned stations (90 percent completion). They finished plankton tows at 92 of 105 planned stations (87 percent completion).

Chart showing survey area off the U.S. Eastern seaboard, Maine to North Carolina, and percentage of trawl stations completed in each sub-area. All stations from Delaware north were completed.
Northeast Fisheries Science Center 2021 spring bottom trawl survey stations completed. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

The start of the survey was delayed by a last-minute staffing emergency. As a result, 30 stations south of Virginia were dropped.

There was no federal survey effort in 2020. Constraining the spread of COVID-19 took precedence.

This year, we operated under COVID-19 survey protocols:

  • We sailed with fewer people, for fewer sea days, and planned for slightly fewer stations.
  • Instead of our usual four legs ranging from 10 to 18 days each, we sailed in three legs, each slightly longer than usual.

However, the survey plan ensured that essential data were collected across the survey area.

The Bigelow supports a variety of marine research. However, the multispecies bottom-trawl survey is among the most important of its missions for monitoring the region’s fishery resources, and it is the longest running of its kind in the world.

This fishery-independent survey monitors fish abundance and distribution on the Northwest Atlantic continental shelf from Cape Lookout, North Carolina to the Scotian Shelf. Data collected include fish age, length, weight, sex, maturity, and food habits, all of which are critical for fishery stock assessments that help to inform fishery management decisions by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Chart showing survey area off the U.S. Eastern seaboard, Maine to North Carolina, and percentage of plankton stations completed in each sub-area. All stations from Virginia north through Georges Bank and the Scotian Shelf, and into inshore Maine were completed. Stations were dropped in the most southerly range (southernmost Virginia and North Carolina), and in a part of the central Gulf of Maine, with partial sampling in adjacent Gulf waters.
Northeast Fisheries Science Center 2021 spring bottom trawl planned plankton tows completed. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.
 Chart showing survey area off the U.S. Eastern seaboard, Maine to North Carolina, and percentage of oceanographic sample stations completed in each sub-area. All stations from Virginia north were completed.
Northeast Fisheries Science Center 2021 spring bottom trawl temperature-depth casts completed. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on July 01, 2021