This portal tracks the 2017 groundfish survey conducted on chartered West Coast fishing vessels by the Fisheries Research Survey (FRS) Team from NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center. During the first half of the survey (May - July) we will conduct sampling from onboard the F/V Excalibur and the F/V Last Straw. The vessels are relatively small (65 - 76 ft in length) and usually host three scientists: a chief scientist from FRS and two back deck biologists. Many of the back deck biologists are volunteers without whose assistance we could not conduct the survey. The vessel personnel includes the Captain, two crewmembers and sometimes a night watch person. Follow us as we use trawling and oceanographic sampling to learn about the California Current ecosystem and the health of many West Coast fish populations. The survey traverses the entire area from U.S.-Canada to U.S.-Mexico at depths from 55 m to 1280 m twice during the sampling season (May - October). The survey is the primary source of fisheries independent information used in the management of 40+ groundfish along the U.S. West Coast. Although communications are often spotty while the team is at sea, chief scientists will post updates during periodic port calls as the vessels sample throughout the survey season.
Keith Bosley, chief scientist, leg 1, F/V Last Straw - After a busy 5 days loading gear and setting up survey equipment on the F/Vs Excalibur and Last Straw in Newport, OR, the 2017 bottom trawl survey officially got underway on the night of May 19th. Preliminary reports from other NW Center scientists who were already working at sea indicated that this could be the year of the pyrosome, which is a free-floating colonial tunicate that usually lives in the upper layers of the open ocean in warm seas. We also encountered them immediately, as our codend was full of thousands of Pyrosoma atlanticum right from the very first trawl with countless more stuck in the webbing too. They seemed to be heaviest in abundance off Oregon but we caught large amounts of them throughout the trip at almost every trawl location all the way to the Canadian border. The first leg is usually one of the “fishiest,” covering stations from the north/central Oregon Coast north to Cape Flattery, WA and this year turned out to be no exception. The F/V Last Straw had one 15-minute tow with over 9,000 lbs. of yellowtail rockfish (Sebastes flavidus) and another with more than 3,000 lbs. of petrale sole (Eopsetta jordani). So many marketable fish were caught during the first 5 days of the leg that the F/V Last Straw made a mid-trip fish delivery in Warrenton, OR and landed a total of almost 25,000 lbs. of fish! The F/V Excalibur caught its fair share as well, including one memorable 15-minute tow with greater than 20,000 lbs., almost half of that was canary rockfish (S. pinniger). Victor Simon, chief scientist onboard the F/V Excalibur, also noted an abundance of small sablefish in the catch so far this year. Other than a few days of winds in the 20-30 kt. range early in the leg, the weather was quite nice overall with several days of flat glassy seas. One final item of interest from the first leg is that a “fish chute” designed by the AFSC was deployed and tested on the F/V Excalibur. This device utilizes a camera and trigger mechanism to identify and measure fish in order to further NMFS's goal of expanding the use of electronic monitoring. The operator slides each individual fish through the chute, where a light sensor towards the end of the chute triggers the overhead camera. What it meant practically for those aboard the F/V Excalibur was that every single fish that was measured as per usual on the electronic board had to be passed through the chute too. They also processed many hundreds of fish from species that have no length protocols associated with them and some invertebrates too. It was a lot of extra work but the AFSC scientist who was along to operate the device was thrilled with the amount of information they were able to collect. This was only made possible because of the hard work and dedication of the survey scientists, Victor Simon and Doug Draper, as well as the F/V Excalibur crew too. The first leg ended back in Newport on time on the afternoon of May 29th, Memorial Day 2017.