Research Ships

NOAA Fisheries operates a wide assortment of hydrographic survey, oceanographic research, and fisheries survey vessels. These vessels are operated by NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. The ships are run by a combination of NOAA commissioned officers and wage marine civilians. The ship's officers and crew provide mission support and assistance to scientists from various NOAA laboratories as well as the academic community.

NOAA Fisheries research vessels:

  • Bell M. Shimada—a state-of-the-art fisheries survey vessel that studies a wide range of marine life, seabirds, and ocean conditions along the U.S. West Coast. The ship’s design allows for quieter operation and movement of the vessel through the water, giving allowing scientists to study fish and marine mammals without disturbing them.

  • Fairweather—a hydrographic survey vessel that maps the ocean to support safe navigation and commerce. Fairweather’s officers, technicians, and scientists collect data used by NOAA cartographers to create and update the nation’s nautical charts with ever-increasing precision.

  • Ferdinand R. Hassler—one of the newest ships in NOAA’s fleet of research and survey vessels that map the ocean to aid maritime commerce, improve coastal resilience, and understand the marine environment. NOAA's Coast Survey uses data collected by the ship to create and update the nation’s nautical charts

  • Gordon Gunter—a multipurpose oceanographic research vessel that monitors the health and abundance of fisheries resources and marine mammals. The ship operates mainly in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and Caribbean Sea.

  • Henry B. Bigelow—a state-of-the-art fisheries survey vessel that studies a wide range of marine life and ocean conditions along the U.S. East Coast. The ship's primary mission is to study and monitor fish stocks. The ship also conducts habitat assessments and surveys marine mammal and seabird populations.

  • Hi`ialakai—a multipurpose oceanographic research vessel whose main missions include coral reef ecosystem mapping, coral reef health and fish stock studies, and maritime heritage surveys.

  • Nancy Foster—one of the most operationally diverse platforms in the NOAA fleet--supports fish habitat and population studies, seafloor mapping surveys, physical and chemical oceanography studies, and maritime heritage surveys.

  • Okeanos Explorer—known as "America's ship for ocean exploration." Dedicated to exploration and discovery, Okeanos Explorer maps the seafloor, explores shipwrecks, and characterizes largely unknown areas of the ocean.

  • Oregon II—conducts a variety of fisheries, plankton, and marine mammal surveys in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and Caribbean Sea.

  • Oscar Dyson—the first in a class of ultra-quiet fisheries survey vessels built to collect data on fish populations, conduct marine mammal and seabird surveys, and study marine ecosystems. The ship operates primarily in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.

  • Oscar Elton Sette—a multipurpose oceanographic research vessel that conducts fisheries assessments, physical and chemical oceanography research, and marine mammal and marine debris surveys. The ship operates throughout the central and western Pacific Ocean.

  • Pisces—the third in a class of state-of-the-art, acoustically quiet fisheries survey vessels built for a wide range of living marine resource surveys and ecosystem research projects. The ship focuses primarily on U.S. waters from the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and South Atlantic to North Carolina.

  • Rainier—a hydrographic survey vessel that maps the ocean.

  • Reuben Lasker—the fifth in a series of Oscar Dyson-class fisheries survey vessels and one of the most technologically advanced fisheries vessels in the world. The ship’s primary objective is to support fish, marine mammal, seabird, and turtle surveys off the U.S. West Coast and in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

  • Ronald H. Brown—a global-class oceanographic and atmospheric research platform, and the largest vessel in the NOAA fleet. With its highly advanced instruments, the ship travels worldwide supporting scientific studies to increase our understanding of climate and the ocean.