2017 Spring Bottom Trawl Survey

Leg I: Welcome Aboard

We are underway for the 2017 NEFSC Bottom Trawl Survey aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow, a fisheries survey vessel that is specifically designed for the science we do at sea.

At 209-feet long, that might seem like a big ship, but put 38 people on it and it starts to feel small really fast. We’ll work and live together for the 18 days of Leg I, which covers the southern-most part of our region. When all four legs are completed, we’ll have collected biological and physical data at more than 300 stations on the continental shelf off the Northeast US coast, including some in Canadian waters.


Southbound on the NOAA Ship Bigelow out of Newport RI. Photo by NOAA Fisheries NEFSC/Wesley Rand

Three different workforces run our operations. Officers of the NOAA Corps, a uniformed service of the United States, are responsible for managing and navigating the ship. Professional wage mariners make up the rest of permanent ship’s crew: engineers who perform mechanical maintenance, electronic technicians that deploy our ocean sensors, fishermen that deploy our trawl net, and stewards that prepare meals. The scientific party, which I am part of, is put together by the Ecosystem Survey Branch of the NEFSC. We’re responsible for executing the science plan, collecting and processing the data.

When working as a scientist at sea, you spend most of your waking hours with the same people in your watch schedule, in my case seven other fishery biologists. You work, eat, and spend a lot of time waiting to get to your next sampling station, together. The first few days of a trip are kind of like your first day of school. You meet a lot of new people and try to remember everyone’s names. You really only work closely with your work force, but we all rely on each other because every part is crucial to the survey’s success.

Wesley Rand, Fishery biologist

Aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

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