Survey of Northeast Pelagic Zone Completed

Pisces, photo/NOAA.

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center reports that researchers have completed the first comprehensive survey of the upper waters of the continental shelf off the Northeast U.S., from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to the Nova Scotia Shelf, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine.

Jon Hare (in foul weather gear) and Acting Boatswain Victor Piones launch an array of bongo plankton nets and a CTD unit from the side sampling station of the Pisces. Photo by Chris Melrose, NEFSC/NOAA

The focus of the study was the physics, chemistry, and biology of the water column—or pelagic zone, where most primary production occurs—rather than the ocean bottom. The scientific parties worked from the NOAA Ship Pisces and spent 16 days at sea conducting the work.

Three federal agencies were involved in the survey: NOAA, NASA, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), each investigating a different aspect of the ocean. Scientists from the City University of New York (CUNY) Staten Island participated as marine mammal and bird observers with BOEM support.

The CTD rosette and all its attached sensors for light levels, chlorophyll, particle size, oxygen, temperature and salinity, being lowered into the water from the side sampling station of the Pisces. Photo by Chris Melrose, NEFSC/NOAA

A wide variety of data were collected on plankton, fish, invertebrates, marine mammals, sea birds, and sea turtles encountered in the survey. Researchers also collected information on the ocean water, including nutrients, light levels, distribution of currents and other properties.

Data and samples collected on the survey will be distributed to regional universities and research institutions including the University of Connecticut, University of Maine, University of New Hampshire, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The information collected will be used in fisheries stock assessments, ecosystem status reports, satellite development, and offshore energy planning. Once processed, the data also will be deposited in national archives and be publically available. Integrating the data across institutions and agencies remains a challenge, but the comprehensive collection is an important step in understanding the ecosystem as a whole and how the different components interact.

More info on the science and a day-to-day account of life aboard the ship during the 16-day survey can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.

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