Due to the uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges those are creating for NOAA Fisheries, the agency is cancelling three research surveys off the West Coast of the United States.
The canceled surveys are:
–The West Coast Groundfish Bottom Trawl Survey
–The California Current Hake Ecology and Survey Methods Research Cruise and
— The California Current Ecosystem Survey
“These are difficult decisions for the agency as we strive to meet our core mission responsibilities while balancing the realities and impacts of the current health crisis. Since March, we have been rigorously analyzing various options for conducting surveys this year and are taking a survey-by-survey, risk-based approach. After much deliberation, we determined that we will not be able to meet core survey mobilization and execution objectives for these surveys,” said NOAA Fisheries in an announcement.
The agency described the canceled surveys:
The Groundfish Bottom Trawl Survey, run out of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, traverses the entire region from the U.S.-Canada to U.S.-Mexico borders. It is the primary source of fishery-independent data for the management of multiple West Coast fishery stocks. The survey also supports ecosystem modeling and management. The loss of the 2020 survey data could result in increased uncertainty in upcoming stock assessments. We will coordinate with the Pacific Fishery Management Council for any affected stock assessments and leverage the long time-series data to provide the best scientific information.
The 2020 California Current Hake Ecology and Survey Methods Research Cruise, also run out of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, planned to collect data and refine and enhance operations to prepare for the biennial joint U.S.-Canada 2021 Integrated Ecosystem and Pacific Hake Acoustic-Trawl Survey and conduct research in support of ecosystem modeling and management. Cancellation of this cruise postpones, until next year, the required acoustic system comparisons between the U.S. and the new Canadian survey vessels used for data collection. We are developing contingencies to ensure the consistency of the Pacific hake time series.
The California Current Ecosystem Survey — sometimes referred to as the summer CPS survey, runs out of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center, spans the region from the U.S.-Canada to U.S.-Mexico borders and collects biomass information using active acoustic sampling and biosampling of coastal pelagic species in the California Current. While the cancelled resource survey is an important fishery-independent source of data for Pacific sardine, Pacific mackerel, northern anchovy, Pacific jack mackerel, and market squid, we intend to continue these annual surveys next year. In the interim, we will work with the Pacific Fishery Management Council to mitigate the impacts from the loss of survey data this year. The Pacific Fishery Management Council actively manages Pacific sardine and Pacific mackerel.
NOAA Fisheries says it is continuing to assess the status of other surveys in the region. “We are working through numerous survey scenarios relative to community pandemic safeguards and safe work practices, so that we maximize the science available for fisheries management in this challenging year.”