Research Surveys in the Pacific Northwest
Our scientists conduct various field studies and surveys to estimate fishery populations, better understand marine life, and track ecosystem conditions off California, Oregon, and Washington.
What We Do
We conduct annual surveys to gather biological and environmental data about West Coast fisheries. Managers use these data to sustainably manage commercial and recreational fish stocks, protected species like Pacific salmon and Southern Resident killer whales, and understand broader environmental trends and socio-economic impacts from a changing ocean.
Northwest Fisheries Science Center surveys focus on West Coast groundfish and Pacific salmon populations. Complimentary surveys from our Southwest Fisheries Science Center gather data on pelagic species like anchovies and sardines, and highly migratory species like sharks and rays.
We design, build, and test much of the sampling gear, and evaluate advanced acoustic and optical sensing systems. We conduct vessel and gear standardization studies to ensure the comparability of survey indices over time and perform statistical evaluations of sampling adequacy.
Groundfish Bottom Trawl Survey
The annual bottom trawl survey is a cornerstone of NOAA Fisheries’ mission to ensure healthy ecosystems with productive and sustainable fisheries. Our top priority is providing long-term time-series data for the scientific management of west coast groundfishes and their ecosystem. The survey collects fishery-independent data on the abundance, distribution, and biology of more than 90 managed species. The survey also conducts coast-wide environmental sampling for monitoring change within the California Current Ecosystem.
Timing: May-July; August-October
Vessels: 4 chartered commercial boats
Location: From the Mexican to Canadian border
Learn more about the Groundfish Bottom Trawl Survey
Groundfish Hook and Line Survey
The Hook and Line Survey uses rod and reel gear to sample fish in rocky habitats that we cannot effectively access using traditional research trawl nets. We work collaboratively with the local sportfishing industry onboard commercial passenger fishing vessels. Together, we sample approximately 200 fixed sites each year. Our survey biologists collect information about the abundance, biology, ecology, and genetics of important species to both the sport and commercial fishing industries.
Vessels: 3 chartered CPFV (sportfishing) boats
Location: Southern California Bight
Learn more about the Groundfish Hook and Line Survey
Joint U.S.-Canada Integrated Ecosystem and Pacific Hake Acoustic Trawl Survey
The hake survey provides vital data to help manage the migratory coastal stock of Pacific hake. The hake survey, known as the Joint U.S.-Canada Integrated Ecosystem and Pacific Hake Acoustic Trawl Survey, is a cooperative effort with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The survey occurs every odd-numbered year.
Vessels: Usually the NOAA Ship Bell M Shimada; Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada CCGS Sir John Franklin
Location: From the Mexican to the Canadian border
Learn more about the Hake Survey
Follow us on our blog, The Main Deck
Juvenile Salmon and Ocean Ecosystem Survey
The Juvenile Salmon and Ocean Ecosystem Survey (JSOES) collects juvenile salmon and other open-ocean animals each May and June. The data we collect allows us to identify shifts in abundance, distribution, and growth/condition of migrating juvenile salmon. We also characterize the ocean ecosystem more generally by studying physical and biological trends over time. We use survey results in Life Cycle Models and other tools that help fisheries managers make informed decisions about Pacific salmon recovery.
Timing: Two survey per year - Late May and Late June, about ten days each
Vessels: F/V Frosti (Canadian contract vessel)
Location: Coastal environments from Newport, OR to La Push WA
Newport Hydrographic Line Survey
The Newport Hydrographic Line time-series tracks the connection between ocean climate and ecosystem structure changes and function in the California Current. Researchers have sampled this area of the ocean at least once a month for more than 20 years. The continuous data collection allows us to monitor and study climate variability and climate change through physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic metrics. Data are distilled into ocean ecosystem indicators used to characterize juvenile salmonids’ habitat and survival and have also shown promise for other stocks such as sablefish, rockfish, and sardine.
Vessel: Oregon State University R/V Elakha
Location: About 10km off the coast of Newport, OR
Follow us on our blog, the Newportal
Northern California Current Ecosystem Surveys
The Northern California Current Ecosystem Surveys expand the biophysical sampling conducted along the Newport Line out to the edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone. We also run additional transects from the California/Oregon border to northern Washington. These surveys help us understand lower trophic level responses to environmental variability across the Pacific Northwest and California Current ecosystem. We also incorporate information on the abundance and distribution of mid-trophic level nekton, marine mammals, and birds.
Timing: Winter, Spring, and Fall
Vessels: NOAA Ship Bell Shimada
Location: Survey lines perpendicular to the coast out 200NM from Central Washington to Northern California
Southern Resident Killer Whale Survey
We use small boats to monitor the health of the endangered population of Southern Resident killer whales.
Vessels: NOAA small boats
Location: Throughout the Salish Sea
Learn more about our Southern Resident killer whale research
Volunteer for a Survey
Are you interested in helping with one of our fish or ecosystem surveys? Our surveys benefit from every scientist and volunteer that sails. We welcome your participation and know that it takes serious commitment to maintain the high quality of data we expect from our scientists and volunteers.