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2017 West Coast Pelagic Fish Survey

June 19, 2017

The 2017 Summer West Coast Pelagic Fish Survey is scheduled for June 19 through August 11, 2017, aboard the NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker.

The NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker will attempt to occupy scheduled station locations between San Diego, California, and the northern extent of Vancouver Island, Canada, to survey the distributions and abundances of coastal pelagic fish species, their prey, and their biotic and abiotic environments in the California Current. 

August 11, 2017

August 9, 2017, marked the final operations of the Summer 2017 West Coast Pelagic Fish Survey. During that day, staff completed transects 24 and 26, ending offshore of Morro Bay. Toward the end of the day and into the night, winds and waves became too rough and staff were only able to trawl once near the middle of transect 24. This trawl caught sardine, anchovy, Pacific and jack mackerels, and market squid. FSV Reuben Lasker then returned to San Diego and arrived Friday morning, August 11.

August 4, 2017

Maps showing the unverified distribution of: 38-kHz nautical area backscattering coefficients, integrated from 5 to 70-m depth, averaged over 2-km distance intervals, and preliminarily attributed to CPS, anchovy and sardine eggs collected with CUFES, and proportions of fish species caught in the trawls.

Leg II of the summer coastal pelagic species survey began July 30. FSV Reuben Lasker sailed from San Francisco and resumed sampling of transects off northern California. Transect spacing has been 20 n.mi., but some transects have been extended to map the western extent of coastal pelagic species eggs and acoustic backscatter. Beginning on August 3, the CA-DFW aim to augment Laskers’ transects with concomitant aerial-camera observations of any near-surface coastal pelagic species schools. AST staff updated the maps of coastal pelagic species backscatter, anchovy and sardine eggs, and species caught in the trawl catches (Fig. 1). Most coastal pelagic species backscatter has been detected off the coasts of Washington and Oregon. Trawl catches have included mostly jack mackerel. Sardine catches continue to be mixed with mostly mackerels. The distributions of anchovy and sardine eggs have been segregated. The plotting code was developed as part of a larger AST effort to increasingly automate the survey-data processing and reporting.

The unverified distributions fish and squid eggs collected with CUFES and fish caught in the trawls.

July 28, 2017

In the past week, the summer coastal pelagic species survey on FSV Reuben Lasker sampled 17 transects off southern Oregon and northern California. Most of these transects were extended farther offshore to adaptively map the western extent of the coastal pelagic species eggs sampled in the continuous underway fish egg sampler. Industry pilot, Frank Foode, flew over the ship’s transects off Oregon to make concurrent aerial-camera observations of any near-surface coastal pelagic species schools. Coastal pelagic species schools were observed in the same areas from the ship and plane. Trawl catches in the area included mackerels, or mackerels with sardine, but no anchovy. The caught sardine were large, 170 -270 mm, with modes at 210 and 260 mm. Now off California, there is little indication of coastal pelagic species. Beginning August 3, a pilot from CA-DFW will conduct aerial-camera observations of any coastal pelagic species schools between Lasker’s transects and the shore.

Map showing the distribution of 38-kHz nautical area backscattering coefficients integrated from 5 70-m depth, averaged over 2-km distance intervals, and preliminarily attributed to CPS.

July 21, 2017

On Tuesday, July 18, the FSV Reuben Lasker departed the Exploratorium Pier at San Francisco to begin Leg II of FRD’s Summer Coastal Pelagic Species Survey. The ship first transited north to resume surveying near Waldport, OR. A trawl was attempted early in the morning on July 20, but the winches malfunctioned and were not repaired before sunrise, when acoustic sampling resumed along transect 82. While sampling off Oregon, FRD staff are coordinating with an industry pilot, Frank Foode, who is photographing any near-surface coastal pelagic species schools present along the ship’s transects. From Lasker, coastal pelagic species, eggs, and echoes were sampled along transect 82 (Figs. 1 and 2). Along transect 81, coastal pelagic species schools were observed visually from both the aircraft and Lasker, and sampled with the echosounders, continuous underway fish egg sampler, and the trawl. Three catches in this area included sardine, mackerels, and herring, totaling 298.8 kg. Sardine catches are mixed with other coastal pelagic species, mostly mackerels. The weather has been cooperative and, on July 21, sampling continued along transect 80.

Maps displaying the unverified distributions fish and squid eggs collected with CUFES and fish species caught in the trawls.

July 14, 2017

The first leg of the summer survey of coastal pelagic fishes successfully concluded in San Francisco on July 13. To date, the echosounder, trawl, and continuous underway fish egg sampling from FSV Reuben Lasker extended from the northern end of Vancouver Island to southern Oregon (Fig. 1). The coastal pelagic species backscatter mapped off Vancouver Island was attributed to herring. Herring were also found nearshore off Washington; and anchovy and mackerels were found farther offshore. Some 190-260 mm sardine was caught off Oregon amidst more abundant jack and Pacific mackerels. Leg two will begin on July 17 and transects will continue to south of Monterrey Bay before the cruise ends in San Diego on August 11, 2017.

July 7, 2017

Maps displaying daytime acoustic backscatter attributed to coastal pelagic fish species and proportions of target CPS in nighttime-trawl catches during the first leg of the summer CPS survey.

After a quick crew change on July 1, the Summer Coastal Pelagic Species Survey resumed on Transect 101 and continued offshore. FSV Reuben Lasker is completing, on average, 2 transect lines per day and 2-3 trawls per night.

There was little coastal pelagic species backscatter off Vancouver Island and Washington. Off Oregon, however, more acoustic targets and coastal pelagic species eggs have been sampled. Coastal pelagic species backscatter is between 15-20 nm offshore at depths of 80 -150 m, during the day. These schools are associated with bathymetric features and the continental shelf. Radio chatter indicates that there are more anchovy and mackerel schools farther south.

On 1 July, Lisa Marie began a complementary survey of coastal pelagic species nearshore of Washington and Oregon. An EK60 echosounder and the vessel’s sonar are also collecting acoustic data. Each day, the ship rendezvous with FSV Reuben Lasker and samples a portion of the same transect. Then, as FSV Reuben Lasker transits to and surveys the next two transects to the south, Lisa Marie surveys shorter transects as close to shore as navigable. The nearshore sampling off Washington is complete, and Lisa Marie is now sampling off Oregon.

Concurrently, a spotter pilot is flying over and photographing the survey area. A near-surface coastal pelagic species school was observed from the plane, and then by the 38-kHz echosounder on Lisa Marie (Fig. 1). The echosounder also detected many deeper schools that were likely not observable from the aircraft. A near-surface school was sampled by jigging and determined to be anchovy. The specimens were frozen and will be processed by the WA-DFW upon returning to Westport. No sardine have been found nearshore. 

On July 6, FSV Reuben Lasker sampled coastal pelagic species backscatter (Fig. 2) and anchovy eggs (i.e., 800+ / 10 min and 900 / 30 min) on Transect 090. The trawl was set that night, and then through the area with the highest concentration of eggs on Transect 091. The first trawl yielded 5.6 kg sardine, 11 kg anchovy, 10.8 kg Pacific mackerel, and 36.3 kg jack mackerel. The second trawl yielded approximately 13 kg anchovy, 424 kg Pacific mackerel, and 236 kg jack mackerel. Although not represented in the subsample, the catch included a few 30.5+ cm (age 5+) sardine.

Graphic taken from an echosounder showing schools of northern anchovy, mostly at ~100 m depth, off Oregon. A near-surface school, spotted by an aircraft pilot, was sampled by jigging from F/V Lisa Marie and determined to be anchovy. FSV Reuben Lasker trawled in the same area at night and caught anchovy and mackerels. The seabed (red ine) is ~136 m deep.
Graphic showing cps schools at ~100 m depth off Oregon, imaged with the 18-kHz EK60 echosounder. Nighttime trawls in the area, from Reuben Lasker, caught mostly mackerels and anchovy, with a few ages 5+ sardine. The seabed is ~125-175 m deep.


June 30, 2017

On June 19, FSV Reuben Lasker departed San Diego for the 2017 Coastal Pelagic Species summer survey.

This 50-day acoustic-trawl survey is sampling coastal pelagic species off the west coasts of the US and Vancouver Island, Canada. Samples of acoustic backscatter, fish and krill specimens, fish eggs, and temperature and salinity versus depth will be analyzed to estimate the distributions and abundances of the northern sub-population of northern anchovy, the northern sub-population of Pacific sardine, and jack mackerel, Pacific mackerel, herring, and krill in the survey area.

Maps showing wind velocity recorded from FSV Reuben Lasker during a six-day transit from San Diego, CA to Vancouver Island, Canada, and locations of sampled CPS backscatter and eggs. No sardine or sardine eggs were sampled off Vancouver Island.


During the six-day transit to Vancouver Island, intense N-NW winds slowed progress (Fig. 1, left) and there were few coastal pelagic species eggs collected with the continuous underway fish egg sampler (Fig. 1, right). Lasker then began surveying off Vancouver Island using multi-frequency and wide-bandwidth echosounders, multi-beam sonar, scanning sonar, trawl, continuous underway fish egg sampler and multiple physical measuring devices. On June 28, Lasker completed the 11 planned transects off Vancouver Island, which spanned from the 50-m isobath to approximately 35 nm offshore. Relative to previous years, the abundance of coastal pelagic species sampled off Vancouver Island was small, judging from a preliminary analysis of coastal pelagic species backscatter and trawl catches. No sardine were detected off Vancouver Island in continuous underway fish egg sampler or trawls, indicating that the stock has not migrated as far north as it had prior to 2014.

When surveying off Washington and Oregon, Lasker will be coordinating with FV Lisa Marie, which will be sampling the area closer to shore than Lasker can safely navigate during the planned 10-day survey (nominally 1-10 July). An EK60 scientific echosounder was installed aboard Lisa Marie, which will be used in conjunction with the vessel’s 38-kHz split-beam transducer to sample calibrated acoustic backscatter. A video recording device was also installed to store the vessel’s sonar display. Species proportions and their lengths will be sampled using a purse-seine net. During the first five days of the collaborative nearshore survey, two commercial fishers will sail aboard Lasker to observe FRD’s acoustic-trawl sampling.

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Last updated by Southwest Fisheries Science Center on July 24, 2020