NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 6 – 21, 2017
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 20, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 41 18.06 N
Longitude: 68 42.35
Wind Speed: 20.3 knots
Air Temperature: 15.3 C
Science and Technology Log
I’ve had a lot of people ask “So what is the purpose of this trip?” I thought it would be fitting to answer that question in this last blog from sea. I’ve explained the process of collecting the data out here at sea. I’ve explained the technology and methods we’ve used to collect it. But the logical question now is, what happens once this data has been collected?
I’ve had the pleasure serving on the second half of this trip with NOAA Mathematical Biologist, Dvora Hart. Dvora is the lead scientist for the scallop fishery. She is well known in the New England area for her work with scallop fisheries. To many of you in the Midwest, scallops may not seem like a big deal, but did you know that scallops are the second largest commercial fishery market in America? In 2016 scallops were a 485 million dollar industry. They are second only to the lobster market in terms of commercial fisheries value.
NOAA has been completing scallop surveys with lined dredges since 1978. The methods have changed over the years as the technology and research methods have advanced, and these methods have yielded success. However the scallop fisheries have not always been as plentiful as they are now. In 1994 several measures were put in place to help a struggling scallop fishery. The changes were larger dredge rings so smaller scallops would pass through, less crew members on board a vessel, and sections of one of the most productive fisheries in the Atlantic, Georges Bank, would be closed for portions of time to scallop fishermen.
These kind of changes come from a Regional Fisheries Management Council. This council has appointed members from the governors of the New England states involved, head of NOAA Greater Atlantic Fisheries gets a seat, and then 3 more members from each state are nominated. The end result is 19 members who make up this council to decide how to best run a variety of commercial marine organisms in the Northeast Atlantic. There is also a technical committee, which advises this council. This is where Dvora Hart and the data from the scallop survey come in.
The scallop survey, which started May 16th, has been meticulously planned out by NOAA Fisheries. The area where the scallop survey has been preformed has been broken up into regions called strata. These strata areas are determined by their depth and their general geographical area. Once scallops are collected in a strata, a weighted mean, a size frequency, shell heights, and a mean number of scallops of each size category are taken. From the meat weights that were collected, a total biomass of scallops for the area is taken. There is a relationship between the meat weight and the shell height which gives researches an idea of the total biomass of scallops in the area. At any given depth there is a conversion of shell height to meat weight. These numbers can be plugged into software which can model the biomass for an area.
All of the data collected during the NOAA scallop survey is combined with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) scallop survey. Dvora and the NOAA scientists created forecasting models for 19 different areas in the Northeast Atlantic. Forecasts are made using the predicted biomass for the strata areas, by aging the samples of scallop shells collected, fishing mortality (amount of caught by fishermen), and natural mortality rates. Models are then created to forecast 15 years out to predict the consequences of fishing an area heavy. Dvora is part of a technical team that advises the Regional Fisheries Management Council using the data collected in this survey and the models her and her team have created. Scallop fisheries are very healthy currently due to the data collected, data interpreted, and models created by NOAA scientists, commercial fishermen, and Regional Fisheries Management Council.
These 16 days have been quite an experience. I’d like to share just 5 of the more memorable moments from this trip.
5. Amazing sites of nature. What a unique experience to be out only surrounded by the vast Atlantic Ocean for over two weeks. I’ve seen so many awe inspiring moments. Sun rises, sun sets, full moons over the ocean in a clear sky, rainbows that span the horizon, thousands of stars in the sky, and thick ominous fog which lasts for 24 hours. Truly once in a life time sights.
4. The 12 hour shifts. Whether it was running the Habcam and joking around with the crew while we watched computer screens for 12 hours or working the dredge station in all kinds of conditions, the work was fun. Being out on the deck working the dredge was my favorite type of work. To be out in the open air was awesome regardless of how hard the work was. The last day the waters were crazy as we worked on the deck.
3. The awesome animals that came up in the dredge. Too many pictures to post here, but my favorite animal was the goosefish. That fish looked like it wanted to take a bite out of your arm even if it was out of water. Such an awesome animal.
2. The awesome animals that would come near the boat. Crew members saw whales, dolphins, sharks, sunfish, and mola mola. Though my favorite was my first day out when the humpback whales surrounded the boat, the dolphins riding by the boat is was a close second.
1. General life about the Hugh R. Sharp. What a great group of people to be with for 16 days. I felt accepted and looked out for the whole time I was here. Mike Saminsky dropping what he was doing the first day I got to the ship to show me around and grab some dinner, TR sharing his hidden stash of snacks with me, a variety of crew members trying to help me through my sea sickness, and every body on the cruise allowing me to ask questions and interview them. Just the general down time and laughs had will be very memorable.
Thank you to the people of NOAA, the Hugh R. Sharp, my wife and kids (Hannah you are amazing for shouldering the extra load at home!), and family, friends, and students that followed the blog at home. This has been an experience of a lifetime, and I’m grateful to all of you who made it possible. Specific thanks to my work crew chief Nicole Charriere who was an awesome leader during this cruise. I learned a lot about how to lead a group watching her. Thank you to Larry Brady and Jonathan Duquette the Chief scientists for this cruise. Their organization and decision making made this a smooth experience for me. Thank you to Katie Sowers, Emily Susko, Jennifer Hammond, and Huthaifah Khatatbeh for help with the trip arrangements and all of my blog questions, you all made this experience much easier.
Did You Know?
I will travel over 1,000 miles to go home today. Yes that’s crazy to me. But I have traveled over 1,000 nautical miles on the Hugh R. Sharp since this cruise has began.