Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Newportal Blog

A gateway to oceanographic adventures from the Newport Line and beyond

Blog Entries for June 2015

Frosti Fish: The Strange and Unusual

By Cheryl Morgan
June 29, 2015

Posted from the FV Frosti, somewhere off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.  Watching the trawl come in is like the anticipation of opening a Christmas gift.  What could be in there, how many, how big, have we ever caught any of them in the net.   We always hope for some juvenile salmon since that is the main point of the survey but we also like to see something different, strange, or unusual to spice things up.  So, here is a sampling of some of our more interesting species, a number of which we only saw in one or two tows; most are pretty rare.

The Wolf Eel. What is a fish that looks like fettucine with a head (wait, do not eat that, it is not pasta) and that should be wrapped around a rock on the bottom doing hundreds of feet above the bottom in the water column.  Go figure.  We caught a number of these fish throughout the survey but all were juveniles as the adults can get up to 6 feet long. 



Ragfish. We were blessed to catch this juvenile. Adults can get up to several feet long.  They can be found from the surface to the bottom, nearly a mile deep.  This one gets our vote for one of the weirder looking fish of the cruise.



Pacific Saury. A barracuda looking fish that we often catch in much larger sizes.  But, no one can recall catching any this small and cute.  They look like fully formed adults that need to do a lot of growing.


Flatfishes. We caught several large flatfishes several -hundred feet off the bottom.  What is a fish that lives on the bottom, one side down, doing in the water column?  Perhaps they are lost, could not find the bottom or they are chasing some dinner.  Most strange, however, was the catch of nearly 3,330 Pacific sanddabs (19 baskets in the photo) 300 feet off the bottom in ONE trawl.  That was a first for even the fishing crew. 



Pompano. We have periodically caught some of these silvery fish in the NW, but they seem to show up in greater abundance this far north when conditions are warm.  Other surveys along the coast have also been reporting these fish.





Blue Shark. Not technically a catch since it got kicked out of the net by our marine mammal excluder device, but we saw it on our video camera (as well as 10 others).  We do occasionally catch blue sharks in a survey.  There was also a big Thresher shark that we estimated at 10 feet long that also got kicked out of the net by our Excluder.




American shad. Hundreds of thousands of these critters enter the Columbia River.  And we catch the juveniles occasionally at sea.  But no one can recall catching adult sized shad in our surface trawls.  By the way, they are introduced fish from the East Coast that are quite abundant in the Columbia and Sacramento Rivers.




Jack Mackerel. We see these Jack Mackeral in some years, especially warm ocean years when they are not uncommon but are adults.  These are juveniles.  We only caught them in three of our forty five tows.




Red Octopus. This is a small, juvenile octopus that is more commonly found among the rocks on the bottom.   Another creature that is a long way from home. 




Swordtail Squid. This denizen of the deep was caught in a zooplankton tow.  The only thing we know about this creature is that it is a very deep sea squid and one of the crew has a T Shirt with a picture of one on it. 


Tagged: Salmon Survey

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June Salmon Survey Is Underway

By Cheryl Morgan
June 25, 2015

On June 20th 2015, the NOAA Fisheries juvenile salmon survey left Port Angeles, WA for our 10 day adventure sampling aboard the Canadian fishing vessel the FV Frosti.  Our target species are juvenile salmonids that are collected from the upper 20 m of the water column using a surface trawl.  Our main goal is to determine the health and abundance of juvenile salmonids during early marine residence in the NE Pacific Ocean.  We’ve been sampling 55 – 60 stations each June since 1998. These stations span from Newport, Oregon, to the northern tip of Washington state and extend from 1 to 30 miles offshore.  Every morning we conduct two hours of bird surveys before we begin trawling to determine abundance and distribution of potential avian predators.  In addition, we measure temperature, salinity and oxygen, and collect zooplankton samples.  In response to a large harmful algal bloom off our coast, we are also collecting samples to help chart its extent and magnitude.  This work is being conducted by NOAA Fisheries and Oregon State University with funding from NOAA and the Bonneville Power Administration.

Over this almost 20 year time series, we have collected samples over a wide range of ocean conditions.  For example, we have sampled during strong El Niño and La Niña conditions, during different phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), during variable Columbia River flows, and during anomalously warm conditions in the coastal ocean due to lack of upwelling.

Thus, nature has provided us a grand experiment that allows us to observe how salmon and other marine species respond to short- and long-term climate variability.  These trawl surveys, like the one we are on now, have provided insight into how ocean conditions affect the growth and of juvenile salmonids.  During periods of poor ocean conditions, juvenile salmon growth and survival is low likely due to lack of food availability and food quality. The opposite is found during periods of good ocean conditions.


We are very interested in what we will find this year because the ocean conditions are like none we have ever seen before! In the fall of 2013, the Pacific Ocean showed signs of anomalously warm surface water.  This trend continued through all of 2014 and became known as the warm ‘blob’.  Most of our sampling in 2014 was prior to this warm blob moving onshore and affecting our coastal environments.

We will post updates on what we are finding during the survey.  So, follow us, and be the first to learn about current ocean conditions, juvenile salmon abundance and other cool pelagic species!

Tagged: Salmon Survey, Warm Blob, HAB

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Newportal Blog Launch

By Jennifer Fisher
June 23, 2015

We are a group of scientists from NOAA Fisheries and the Oregon State University Cooperative Institute of Marine Resources Studies. We are located at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport Oregon.

Over the past 20+ years, we have been studying how the ocean changes in response to changing environmental conditions. To do this, we sample seven stations along the Newport Hydrographic Line (NH Line) from 1-25 miles from shore. We sample these stations twice monthly, year round, and have been doing this consistently since 1996. At each station we collect physical oceanographic measurements and water samples for analysis of nutrients, chlorophyll and phytoplankton. We also conduct plankton net tows to quantify the abundance and species composition of zooplankton, krill, fish eggs and larvae, and crab larvae.

We have also completed ~80 broader scale surveys spanning from northern Washington to northern California, with some transect lines extending out to 200 miles from shore. These broader scale sample collections help put our high temporal resolution sampling along the NH Line into a larger geographic context.

This is an exciting year for the Newport Hydrographic Line! We are celebrating the 20th year of this long-term observation program, and it has officially qualified as a “climate time series” based on IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) standards. Hooray!

What we learn from the Newport Hydrographic Line

Our 20+ year time series of physical and biological observations along the NH Line and beyond allows us to better understand seasonal, inter-annual and inter-decadal changes at the base of the marine food web. We put our time series observations in the context of monthly changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and daily values of local winds and sea surface temperature. By coupling our observations with these indices and buoy data, we can track changes in ocean conditions and monitor how this affects commercially important species such as salmon, sablefish, sardine, and rockfish.


A very strange year indeed

This year, the ocean has been very different. Anomalously warm surface water dubbed the “Warm Blob” moved onto the continental shelf off Newport in September 2014. A very large Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) spanning from British Columbia to California is occurring off the coast right now. El Niño conditions are occurring at the equator and NOAA is forecasting a 90% chance that an El Niño will persist through the Fall.

We are uncertain what these strange ocean conditions mean for the pelagic food chain off Oregon. We hope you’ll follow our blog as we report on the ocean conditions off Newport Oregon and beyond.

Tagged: NH Line, the Warm Blob

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