The 2021 California Current Ecosystem Survey (CCES) will be conducted by the Fisheries Resources Division (FRD) at NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Fisheries Science Center, from NOAA ship Reuben Lasker. The primary objectives are to survey the distributions and abundances of coastal pelagic fish species (CPS), their prey, and their biotic and abiotic environments in the California Current between the northern extent of Vancouver Island, Canada, and Punta Eugenia, Baja California Norte, July 6 to October 15, 2021. Read the NOAA Fisheries story here.
All Aboard! Participating on the 2021 California Current Ecosystem Survey - Follow Dr. Blane Bellerud as he provides a personal perspective of what it is like to be aboard the R/V Reuben Lasker for the 2021 California Current Ecosystem Survey.
October 14, 2021
On October 15, NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker returned to San Diego, CA, after completing the fourth and final leg of the 2021 Summer California Current Ecosystem (CCE) Survey (2107RL). The ~72-day survey started on July 6 and spanned the continental shelf between the southern end of Vancouver Island, Canada, and northern Baja California, Mexico. The survey aimed to estimate the distributions and biomasses of the five principal coastal pelagic fish species (CPS) in the CCE: Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax), northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax), Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus), jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus), and Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii). This historic survey was a collaborative effort by the U.S. and Mexico; seven Mexican scientists from INAPESCA participated aboard Lasker, and the survey sampled CPS stocks south of the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time since the 1960s. Nearshore sampling was conducted from Cape Flattery, WA, to San Diego using two fishing vessels, Lisa Marie and Long Beach Carnage. Additional acoustic sampling was performed using unmanned surface vehicles (USVs, Saildrone, Inc.).
Aboard Lasker, echosounder sampling was conducted during daytime along 84 transects totaling ~4000 nmi (Fig. 1a); nearly 200 underway CTD casts were conducted along these transects to characterize the environment, estimate sound speeds and acoustic absorption, and thereby improve estimates of CPS biomasses. The length-specific biomass of each species will be estimated by combining CPS-echo data with catch information from 127 surface trawls conducted at night (Fig. 2b). Also considered in the analyses are nearly 1200 samples of pelagic eggs from spawning CPS, collected using the continuous underway fish egg sampler (CUFES; Fig. 1c).
Biomass of CPS was present throughout the survey area, but densities were highest between Cape Blanco, OR, and San Diego, and nearshore off northern Baja California (Fig. 1a). Jack mackerel and Pacific Sardine eggs were most abundant off the coasts of WA and OR, and northern anchovy eggs were dominant in the Southern California Bight (SCB; Fig. 1b). Jack mackerel comprised most of the CPS collected in trawls north of Cape Mendocino, and northern anchovy were most abundant in trawl catches between Cape Mendocino and Baja California.
The Fisheries Resources Division would like to thank the many scientists, volunteers, and administrative staff who made this survey possible during the most challenging of times. We would also like to thank the command and crew of Lasker for their hard work during this long and arduous survey.
October 6, 2021
On October 2, after a long transit and several days avoiding high seas and heavy winds, Lasker and her crew were finally able to conduct some science! From October 2-4, Lasker conducted acoustic, CUFES, and trawl sampling along 2.5 extended (~80 nmi-long) transects in the vicinity of Cape Blanco, OR. The purpose of that work was to sample farther offshore where CPS backscatter and eggs were earlier observed in the echosounders and CUFES, respectively. We observed some acoustic backscatter and collected Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel, and a few sardine during two nights of trawl sampling. Our Mexican colleagues have been a wonderful asset to our sampling and data processing thus far, and the other volunteers on the trawl team have integrated seamlessly. Our Center Director, Kristen Koch, has had the opportunity to experience all aspects of survey operations. On October 4, we turned south toward the Mexican border. The Lasker seemed to be riding a bit higher in the water as we steamed toward Mexico at nearly 12 knots with the aid of fair winds, following seas, and the third generator. On October 5, we received the Mexican research permit and began making final plans to resume the survey off Baja California. As of 1700 on October 6, Lasker is southbound off Pt. Piedras Blancas and expected to arrive off San Diego at ~1800 on October 7. At that time, we will put scientist Keighley Lane and XO Imberi ashore at 10th Avenue Marine Terminal via the small boat, before continuing to Mexico. We expect to begin trawling nearshore off Tijuana on October 7, and resume acoustic and CUFES sampling southward for the remainder of our time.
September 19. 2021
Leg 3 is being led by Juan Zwolinski (Chief Scientists and Lead Acoustician). Joining him on the Acoustics team are David Murfin and Leslie Lopez (INAPESCA). Owyn Snodgrass is adeptly leading the Trawl Team including Jonathan Walker, Zach Skelton, Christina Fahy and Ella Adams. Emily Gardner is expertly leading the CUFES sampling, assisted by Selene Morales (INAPESCA).
Since the last update, Lasker progressed south without interruptions and is scheduled to complete the sampling of southernmost transect within U.S. waters by mid-afternoon September 20. For Leg 3, this totals an additional 14 transects (Fig. 1) and 29 trawls (Fig. 2). Throughout the leg, northern anchovy has been the dominant species in the catches, caught in 27 of the 29 trawls. Jack mackerel were caught in 20 trawls, Pacific mackerel were in 14, and Pacific sardine in 12. Northern anchovy was also the most abundant species by weight with an average of 51 kg per trawl, followed by Pacific sardine with 7.9 kg, and Pacific mackerel and Jack mackerel each with 1.5 kg per trawl. The majority of the CPS acoustic backscatter was concentrated between the mainland and the outer edge of the Channel Islands. This pattern matched that of anchovy eggs observed with CUFES (Fig. 1).
During the penultimate night of Leg 3, Lasker fished off La Jolla and Del Mar. On the last day of the leg, the ship will complete transect 39 and then attempt two trawl stations before heading to San Diego on Tuesday, September 21.
Meanwhile, fishing vessel Long Beach Carnage sampled the nearshore region with scientific echosounders and purse-seine. The regional catches have largely mimicked those by Lasker. Farther offshore, three Saildrones added 20-nmi extensions to Lasker’s transects to ensure that the western extents of the northern anchovy and Pacific sardine populations have been sampled.
During one stretch of travel time, the team decided to document some of their previous catches with the traditional Japanese method of printing fish called Gyotaku.
September 12, 2021
After an 8-day delay due to engine ship repairs, the mandatory shelter-in-place for participants of Leg 3 started on August 30 and ended with scientists boarding Lasker on Tuesday, September 7.
Upon boarding on the afternoon of September 7, scientists attended a welcome aboard meeting and participated on fire, abandon ship, and man-overboard drills.
Lasker departed San Diego around 7AM on September 8 and transited to the inshore point of transect 53, north of Avila Beach. Along the transit, CUFES showed anchovy eggs in about 70% of the samples (Fig. 1). On the day of September 9, Lasker sampled transects 53 and 55 (Fig. 2), and in the night conducted three trawls that resulted predominantly in northern anchovy (Fig. 3). On September 10, Lasker deployed an instrumented lander and sampled transects 51 and 50. That night, Lasker performed three trawls. The first trawl resulted in an even catch of northern anchovy and Pacific sardine (Fig. 3), the second trawl was cancelled due to the continuous presence of marine mammals, and the third one yielded less than a kg of anchovy.
On Saturday, September 11, Lasker sampled transect 49 and the offshore portion of transect 48. It will remain west of Santa Rosa Island where it will conduct three trawls during the night. The wind picked to 20 – 30 kts, but so far the increasing wind and seas have not slowed down survey operations.
Fishing Vessel Long Beach Carnage departed from Long Beach on September 11 and transited north to resume sampling semi concurrently with Lasker. Over the next 10 days, Lasker and Long Beach Carnage will be sampling the southern California Bight. Long Beach Carnage will focus on the nearshore regions of the Bight and Lasker will survey the Bight in its entirety, complemented offshore by Saildrone sampling.
August 20, 2021
The 2021 Summer CCE Survey has reached its midpoint. On August 15, Lasker returned to port and is presently alongside at 10th Avenue Marine Terminal and on an extended ~2 week break to allow for crew rest and preparations for Legs 3 and 4. Leg 3 scientists and crew will soon begin their mandatory 7-d shelter in place prior to boarding the ship on September 2 and departure soon thereafter. Sampling during Leg 3 will resume southward from approximately Morro Bay, and work in coordination with three Saildrone USVs and one fishing vessel (F/V Long Beach Carnage) that is conducting acoustic and purse seine sampling in nearshore areas. We hope to complete sampling in the Southern California Bight during Leg 3 before a brief import in San Diego, and spend Leg 4 sampling the coastal waters of Baja California Norte.
August 14, 2021
On the evening of August 13, Lasker and her crew completed acoustic sampling along transect 057, just south of Cambria, CA, and conducted her last two trawls nearby before turning toward San Diego for an extended port call. After many days of high winds and rough seas, the weather finally decided to cooperate, which made for greater comfort but also allowed for more trawling opportunities and for us to achieve our goal of getting to approximately Morro Bay before heading for home for a well-deserved break.
This week we observed considerable acoustic backscatter in the echograms (Figure 1a), and many anchovies in the trawl samples (Figure 1c). We also collected a few small, immature sardines. Fish eggs have been scarce in the CUFES, with only a few anchovy and jack mackerel eggs observed south of Cape Mendocino (Figure 1b).
Lasker has also been coordinating sampling with two fishing vessels, F/V Lisa Marie and F/V Long Beach Carnage, who continue to conduct acoustic and purse seine sampling in the shallow, nearshore waters that are unsampled by Lasker, and two Saildrone Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) that are conducting acoustic sampling along every other transect along the coast of WA and OR, and between Pt. Arena and Pt. Conception. Lisa Marie completed sampling down to approximately Bodega Bay, where Long Beach Carnage graciously took the baton and continued sampling southward toward Pt. Conception. Generally, the purse seine catches from the fishing vessels has reflected the trawl catch from Laker. The two USVs are currently transiting south to continue sampling lines south of Pt. Arena, and will rendezvous with Lasker when she resumes sampling during Leg 3.
Prior to coming alongside at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal (est. 1130 on August 15), the ship will bring aboard a compass certification person to re-certify the compass. With the ship arriving in the early morning to San Diego Bay we should be arriving at the dock at 11:30 am as scheduled.
A sincere thanks to all of the scientists, officers and crew for their continued effort and support, and a job well done. We will soon say goodbye to our Mexican colleagues as they leave the ship to return home to Mexico. Scientists and crew for Leg 3 will begin preparing for shelter in place (which begins on August 25) prior to embarking on Leg 3, which is scheduled to depart on September 2.
August 6, 2021
During the week of July 31 through August 6, the second leg of the Summer 2021 California Current Ecosystem Survey continued with sampling from NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker, F/V Lisa Marie, and Saildrones 1055 and 1059. By Wednesday, August 4, the Saildrones were more than a week behind Lasker, despite the ship having finished five of the Saildrone lines, 107-99. This lag was partially due to the omission of Lasker’s transects off Vancouver Island, which nearly eliminated Saildrone’s planned head start, and also to low winds and thus Saildrone speed. To reduce the time between sampling from the various vessels, David Demer requested that the Saildrones finish lines 111 and 109, skip the five Saildrone transects that Lasker had already completed, and sail south to get closer to Lasker. A third Saildrone will be launched from Alameda, California, to enable the unmanned sailboats to collectively progress more quickly.
As Lasker rounded Cape Mendocino, the sea-surface temperature rose from ~11 to ~16 ᵒC, signaling the crossing of a biogeographical boundary. Aboard F/V Lisa Marie, as they sampled nearshore just south of Cape Mendocino, their catches began to include almost exclusively northern anchovy.
On Thursday, August 5, Dave Murfin prepared the echosounder system for Fishing Vessel Long Beach Carnage and Steve Sessions facilitated a transfer of the equipment at SWFSC to Captain Richie Ashley.
Aboard Lasker, wind was in the mid 20 kts towards the western end of the transect and the seas were reasonable for trawling. Close to shore, the weather was good too. One trawl was conducted nearshore, resulting in a large catch of northern anchovy.
F/V Lisa Marie concluded sampling on transect 231, three transects and ~15 nmi north of Bodega Bay. Captain Ricky Blair determined that sets could not be made in the high winds and seas they were encountering, the bad weather was expected to continue, and the survey window was coming to an end. With those considerations and safety in mind, he turned the boat north to disembark the scientists at Newport, Oregon. WDFW scientist Patrick Biondo reported, “It was absolutely nautical out there, no way we were setting any nets once the weather came in hard.”
By Friday, August 6, the CPS backscatter continued to be mapped on the shelf, close to shore. South of Cape Mendocino, however, a different biogeographical area was sampled — the warmer water, circa 16 ᵒC, corresponded with nearshore and offshore catches dominated by northern anchovy.
Captain Ashley and his crew installed the pole-mount transducers on F/V Long Beach Carnage. Josiah Renfree is scheduled to set up and test the system on Monday, August 9, before the boat transits north to begin nearshore sampling at Bodega Bay, California. Lasker is expected to complete transects to the area between Monterey Bay and Morro Bay by the time she concludes sampling and heads to port in San Diego on August 14.
July 30, 2021
On Tuesday, July 27, Leg II of the Summer 2021 California Current Ecosystem Survey commenced with NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker’s departure from Newport, Oregon, at 4:20 PM. The ship transited smoothly southward, encountering light wind, small seas and fog, to the first trawl location, approximately 10 nmi from the western waypoint on Transect 106. Conditions are expected to remain good at least until late in the weekend.
The Leg II science complement is led by Bill Watson (Chief Scientist and Lead CUFES Biologist, SWFSC) and includes Scott Mau (Lead Acoustician, SWFSC), Emma Perez (Acoustician, INAPESCA), Shannon Dolan (Acoustician, Doris Duke Foundation Intern), Brittany Schwartzkopf (Lead Trawl Biologist, SWFSC), Lauren Martin (Trawl Biologist, SWFSC), Blane Bellerud (Trawl Biologist; WCR), Daniel Hernandez (INAPESCA), John Barnes (Trawl Biologist, OSU), and Megan Human (CUFES Biologist; SWFSC). The two collaborating scientists from INAPESCA were welcomed aboard, fit with safety gear, and trained on protocols. Special thanks go to Brittany Schwartzkopf and Scott Mau for swiftly integrating our Mexican colleagues into the trawl and acoustic teams.
On Wednesday, July 28, the trawl was set at approximately 2:30 AM and the catch yielded mostly jack mackerel, as well as myctophids and squid. With the first transect completed midday, Scott Mau and Shannon Dolan processed the echograms and mapped CPS schools to direct the nighttime trawl locations. On the shoreward third of transect 106, sea-surface temperature (SST) was mostly below 9 ᵒC, indicating strong upwelling. Farther offshore, SST was greater than 13 ᵒC, where Megan Human observed enough sardine eggs to trigger adaptive sampling. This raised hopes that catches in the area would include sardine from the northern sub-population.
Meanwhile, two Saildrones worked in tandem to acoustically sample transects off Washington and Oregon. The offshore Saildrone moved consistently faster, due to stronger winds, and therefore covered most of the transects. Closer to shore, light winds and kelp have challenged the Saildrone’s ability to keep pace with both the offshore Saildrone and Lasker while following the prescribed transects within the allowable tolerance.
After spending a couple days in port at Newport, Oregon, FV Lisa Marie continued sampling the nearshore transect near Nesika Beach, Oregon, roughly 10 nmi north of the Rogue River mouth. The wind and waves did not allow sets on Wednesday or Thursday, July 28 and 29, but no CPS schools were seen on the echosounder either.
On Thursday and Friday, July 29 and 30, Lasker sampled transects near the Oregon-California border. A coastal, 20 to 30 nm-wide band of water with SST < 10 C included jack mackerel and pacific herring, species that can tolerate colder temperatures. Some sardine eggs and CPS echoes were observed in the warmer water farther offshore.
As Lasker approaches the Oregon-California border on Friday July 30, up-to-date maps of CPS backscatter, eggs and catch highlight an effect of coastal upwelling on the CPS distributions. With an exception in and around the Columbia River plume where northern anchovy were observed, mostly pacific herring and jack mackerel are in the colder water closer to the shore, and small pockets of spawning Pacific sardine are observed in warmer water farther from the coast.
Maps of integrated 38-kHz backscatter from CPS (a), CPS eggs (b), and proportions of species in the nighttime catch clusters (c).
July 23, 2021
On Thursday, July 22, NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker called at Newport, OR, completing the first leg of the Summer 2021 California Current Ecosystem Survey. Transects have been completed between the southern end of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and Cape Blanco, OR (Fig. 1). Meanwhile, two Saildrones continue to work in tandem to complete interstitial transects in this area, one sampling the offshore two-thirds of each transect and the other sampling the one-third closer to shore. Fishing vessel Lisa Marie sampled waters too shallow for Lasker to navigate, and has completed transects to ~20 nmi south of Coos Bay, OR. Lisa Marie will also call at Newport for a couple days respite and a change in the science party.
Along the coast in the sampled area, upwelling reduced the water temperature and increased primary production, increasing chlorophyll concentration, and reducing and positioning the potential sardine habitat offshore (Fig. 2). Acoustic backscatter attributed to coastal pelagic fish species (CPS) was observed principally in these upwelled areas. Nighttime catches aboard Lasker identified these CPS as mostly Pacific herring in the area between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Columbia River, and jack mackerel off Oregon (Fig. 1). Additionally, northern anchovy from the northern subpopulation were observed in the area between the Columbia River and Newport, and Pacific sardine were caught between Newport and Cape Blanco, near Coos Bay (Fig. 1). Purse-seine catches from Lisa Marie tended to be small and varied, notably including two catches of squid and one catch with one sardine.
The officers and crew of Lasker, and the complement of scientists, are recognized for their commitment and sacrifice to successfully complete Leg I of the Summer 2021 CCE Survey during the COVID-19 pandemic. Special thanks go to Josiah Renfree (Chief Scientist), Gabriel Johnson (Acoustician), Matthew Craig (Trawl Lead), Peter Kuriyama (Trawl Biologist), Liana Heberer (Trawl Biologist), Scarlett Hensman (Trawl Biologist), Emily Gardner (CUFES Lead), and Anne Freire de Carvalho (CUFES Biologist).
Lasker will depart Newport, commencing Leg II, on Sunday, July 25. Bill Watson will be Chief Scientist. Sampling will resume at Cape Blanco and is expected to continue south to the area between Monterey and Morro Bay by the end of the leg. The next port call, at San Diego, will be August 15 to September 1.
July 15, 2021
After departing San Diego on July 6, four days later than planned, NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker encountered high seas and headwinds, which followed her northward and slowed her transit. After losing an additional two days to weather, a decision was made to cancel sampling off Vancouver Island. On July 12, Lasker began transects off Cape Flattery, WA, focusing effort on stocks of anchovy and sardine, and mackerels. In the area where the northern stock of Northern anchovy is expected, off Washington and Oregon, Lasker’s sampling is being augmented by sampling from two Saildrones. Also, beginning on July 15, fishing vessel Lisa Marie began nearshore sampling with a 38 kHz echosounder and a purse-seine net. Thus far, Lasker’s samples show some CPS schools near the Strait of Juan de Fuca, mostly herring with some salmon.
July 9, 2021
On July 6, NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker sailed from Tenth Avenue Pier in San Diego, CA, marking the beginning of a 4-leg, 82-seadays, 3.5-month survey of coastal pelagic fish in the California Current Ecosystem. This survey aims to assess the populations of sardine, anchovy, herring, and jack and Pacific mackerels in the survey area, between the north end of Vancouver Island and central Baja California. Sampling from Lasker will be augmented with data collected from Saildrones, fishing vessels Lisa Marie and Long Beach Carnage, and Mexican research vessel Dr. Jorge Carranza Fraser.
On Tuesday, July 6, the scientific complement sailed for Leg I, including Josiah Renfree (Chief Scientist), Gabriel Johnson (Acoustics), Matt Craig (Trawl Lead), Peter Kuryama (Trawl), Liana Heberer (Trawl), Scarlett Heberer (Trawl), Emily Gardner (CUFES), and Anne Freire de Carvalho (CUFES). The ship left the pier at 10 am, stopped briefly at the sea buoy outside San Diego Bay, then calibrated the new Simrad EC150-3C, which is a combination wide-bandwidth echsosounder and Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler. The ADCP calibration involved four reciprocal transects. The echosounder was calibrated using the standard sphere method with the ship utilizing dynamic positioning. The ship then commenced a 5-day transit to the north end of Vancouver Island to begin the survey transects.
On Wednesday, July 7, high wind and waves off Point Conception (Fig. 2) made for a rough ride that is expected to persist for another day or two. The pump for the Continuous Underway Fish-Egg Sampler (CUFES) required repairs. That and the CUFES microscope work were impeded by the inclement weather.