In 1967, NOAA Ship Oregon II was built to take on the seas. Now, 55 years later, the Oregon II is still being used to conduct important fisheries management research out at sea. On August 12, eight scientists and 19 crew members boarded the Oregon II for the 27th year of the bottom longline survey, starting from Pascagoula, Mississippi.
For almost three decades, a group of scientists, deck hands, NOAA Corps officers, engineers, stewards, and electronic technicians have worked together to conduct an effective bottom longline survey. This survey focuses on several species including coastal sharks (e.g., Atlantic sharpnose, blacknose, blacktip, bull, sandbar, spinner, tiger, great hammerhead and scalloped hammerhead sharks), red snapper, yellowedge and red grouper, and golden tilefish.
“This survey has the greatest spatial coverage and is among the longest running bottom longline surveys in the nation. That combination provides critical, continuous data for our various stakeholders,” explains Christian Jones, Ph.D., NOAA's Southeast Fisheries Science Center fisheries biologist and survey lead.
This survey continues to be a priority for NOAA Fisheries because of the information gained on natural resources, such as red snapper and multiple shark species. The information supports a variety of research projects as well as regional stock assessments.
Data that has been collected on these species in years past has facilitated research on a broad array of topics, including:
- Trends in abundance
- Life history (age structure, growth, reproduction)
- Movement patterns
- Genetic population structure
- Habitat utilization
All of this research can’t be completed without the crew aboard the ship. NOAA Corps officer CDR Eric Johnson is new to being the Commanding Officer on the Oregon II. He is filling some big shoes: The last commanding officer, Dave Nelson, was aboard the Oregon II for nearly 30 years—16 of them as the Master. “I have been on the Oregon II three times and my first time aboard was 20 years ago,” said CDR Johnson. “This ship was the first ship I was on with NOAA, so I am excited to be back on it and be in this position.” CDR Johnson leads a team of four NOAA Corps officers and five professional mariners.
The team of scientists and ship crew have a lot of work ahead of them. This is the first of four legs of this year’s survey, which will continue through mid-October. We’ll hear more from Dr. Christian Jones and others aboard the ship in future posts—stay tuned!