Currently, the primary NOAA Fisheries Survey Vessel (FSV) providing support to the West Coast is the NOAA ship Bell M. Shimada. The Bell M. Shimada is the fourth ship built in the NOAA FSV class of acoustically-quiet stern trawlers that can support ecosystem based surveys. The Bell M. Shimada was built to support acoustic and trawl surveys of West Coast resources. It is the primary research vessel supporting the Center's Fishery Resource and Management Division's hake acoustic survey and has been providing support to the Centers Southern Resident killer whale habitat distribution studies each winter. The Bell M. Shimada will also support research related to ocean conditions, salmon, and habitat.
The NOAA ship David Starr Jordan which primarily supported the NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) was retired in 2010, so the Bell M. Shimada has been providing support in addition to charters to meet the agency's highest priority needs of the SWFSC in addition to the work supporting NWFSC projects.
In order to optimize the available time on the Bell M. Shimada to support multiple stocks and address requests by the Congress and industry, in 2012 a joint survey was successfully conducted on Bell M. Shimada for both Pacific Hake (NWFSC) and Sardines (SWFSC) on the same cruise. The two west coast Centers will be looking at additional opportunities to share time at sea on NOAA ships and chartered vessels.