WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Covid-19 pandemic has caused NOAA Fisheries to cancel three surveys on West Coast Groundfish Trawl, California Current Hake Ecology and California Current Ecosystem, it was announced on Aug. 3.
“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,” NOAA Fisheries staff said in a released statement. “After much deliberation, we determined that we will not be able to meet core survey mobilization and execution objectives for these surveys.”
NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center manages the Groundfish Bottom Trawl Survey. The survey covers the entire U.S. coast between the U.S.-Mexico border and U.S.-Canada border. This region, according to NOAA Fisheries staff, “is the primary source of fishery-independent data for the management of multiple West Coast fishery stock.”
“The loss of the 2020 survey data could result in increased uncertainty in upcoming stock assessments,” NOAA Fisheries staff stated. “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.”
Northwest Fisheries Science Center also manages the 2020 California Hake Ecology and Survey Methods Research Cruise. This survey, according to NOAA Fisheries staff, had “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,” NOAA Fisheries staff said in a released statement. “We are developing contingencies to ensure the consistency of the Pacific hake time series.”
NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center oversees the California Current Ecosystem Survey. The survey collects biomass information between the U.S.-Mexico border and U.S.-Canada border. “Active acoustic sampling and biosampling of coastal pelagic species in the California Current” is used to collect the needed information.
“While the canceled 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,” NOAA Fisheries staff stated. “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.”