SOURCE: Fisheries Survival Fund

Fisheries Survival Fund

May 24, 2016 15:19 ET

Lost NOAA Camera Proves Federal Scallop Surveys Should Not Rely on Just One Vessel or Piece of Equipment

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - May 24, 2016) - The loss of a key piece of scallop survey equipment demonstrates the need for an overhaul of how the federal government assesses the species. The Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF), which represents the majority of the limited access scallop fleet, calls for reforms to how scallop surveys are conducted to prevent such an incident from derailing surveys in the future.

For the past several years, the New England Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) has chartered the Research Vessel (R/V) Hugh R. Sharp to conduct the Federal scallop survey. NEFSC employees work with the crew of the vessel to conduct dredge surveys and tow the HabCam IV habitat camera to take photos of the ocean bottom. Because the R/V Hugh R. Sharp is part of a university consortium, it must be chartered at significant expense and is only available for a limited number of days.

Last Thursday, May 19, 2016, while on the current scallop survey, the NEFSC crew lost the HabCam when it separated from the vessel. According to initial reports, it was inadvertently driven into the side of a known and charted shipwreck while being operated by a volunteer, losing at least a week of valuable sea time. Several knowledgeable sources have suggested that there could be as much as $100,000 in damage. Accordingly, the researchers must return to port to acquire a remote operated vehicle, which they will use to attempt to find the lost HabCam.

FSF has argued for years that the R/V Hugh R. Sharp is too expensive, and the federal survey should not rely on just one vessel or piece of equipment. FSF has urged the NEFSC to charter commercial fishing vessels at a fraction of the cost of the R/V Hugh R. Sharp. It would thus be able to survey more locations at the same cost, and no longer be reliant on one vessel and one piece of equipment.

The HabCam is an expensive piece of equipment. If the researchers do not find the HabCam, the cost of replacement and an incomplete Federal scallop survey will significantly impact the scallop fishery. Even if the researchers do find the HabCam, valuable days at sea will be wasted, leading to a reduction in the amount of seabed that the survey will be able to sample. This is likely to produce less accurate assessments of the scallop population.

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