Environmental Monitors on Lobster Traps (eMOLT) Summer 2002 update

After a few years of setting up infrastructure and establishing protocols, the eMOLT project is now fully operational. Over one hundred geographic sites are now in the database with records of temperature and, in several cases, salinity. Time series at each site are typically hourly samples of several months duration.

In the case of temperature (funded in Phase I) many sites are now providing multiple years of data. The objective is to repeatedly occupy these fixed locations year after year to document long-term changes. Some interesting observations have resulted in inter-annual comparisons. Unlike seasurface temperature which is primarily driven by general weather patterns, the variability of bottom temperatures is more often affected by internal oceanographic processes and remote source waters.  Where one site may register a relatively warm year, the opposite can be true of a site in different position and depth.

In the case of salinity (funded in Phase II), very little can be concluded as yet. The instrumentation (Seabird Microcats) have been distributed at five locations along our coast from the Grand Manan Channel near the Canadian border to the shelf edge of southern New England. All units have returned data from short test deployments in the field but these records are limited to a few months and, in most cases, to a few weeks. The first long-term deployments are scheduled to be downloaded later this fall. The participants involved with this phase are supplied with water samplers for calibration purposes and are trained in the operation. They have taken it upon themselves to devise ingenious ways to mount the instrumentation within the trap.

See photo by Norbert Lemieux of Cutler, Maine of salinity probe secured in a trap.

In an effort to handle the volume of environmental data, a network of eMOLT administrators (funded in Phase III) has been set up along the coast to assist lobstermen in downloading and documenting the data (David Casoni and Bernie Feeney for Massachusetts Lobstermen; Bonnie Spinazzola and Marc Palombo for Atlantic Offshore; Clare Grindal, Jeremy and Charlene Cates for Downeast Lobstermen; Patrice Farrey and others for Maine Lobstermen). These two or three administrators per association are tasked with outreach procedures that include, for example, helping participants with electronic loggers These devices that record GPS positions during haul operations have eliminated the need of handwritten mooring logs and provide a more efficient and accurate record of operations. Participants are encouraged to use them. Administrators are also available to help participants understand the concept of their fixed sites and the protocol for naming and documenting those sites as well as help in getting access to and navigating the project website (http://www.emolt.org).

While the eMOLT is still very much a demonstration project and the beneficial results of the monitoring efforts may not be seen for years to come, the participants have shown tremendous cooperation and their efforts are greatly appreciated. It is hoped that with continued funding potentially available from a national initiative for "integrated ocean observing systems", eMOLT will continue to receive support in the future.  Those interested in hearing more about the eMOLT project are welcome to stop by the Research Vessel Weatherbird in Rockland Maine on 26-28 July.

For further information contact: James.Manning@noaa.gov

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