Spring 2003 eMOLT update ...   look out for drifters

The next phase of the  "Environmental Monitors on Lobster Traps"  project  (eMOLT) involves lobstermen deploying and reporting drifters in the Maine Coastal Current.   A pilot study (to test the operation) is planned for the first weeks in June 2003 when approximately 18 units will be released  near the 12650 loran line.  The purpose of this experiment is to assess the logistics and feasibility of  measuring surface drift patterns with the help of local lobstermen.   The results of this preliminary deployment will be used to design and propose a much larger scale deployment  to take place during the Summer of 2004 along the entire coast.  The primary purpose of the project, in general, is to provide observations necessary for  initializing and validating numerical  circulation models. A suite of these models are  currently under-development at various state, federal, and academic labs.  The combination of temperature, salinity, and current-velocity data is needed to test and evaluate simulations.  To learn more about the eMOLT project, visit  http://www.emolt.org.

The purpose of this article, therefore, is to notify all lobstermen working in the area  south and west of Vinalhaven next month (June 2003).  Given a normal weather pattern, it is expected that at least some of the drifters will be advected along the coast to the vicinity of Mohegan  during the month of June and, in  the absence of any major wind events, be carried along to arrive off Casco Bay sometime in July.  As we all know however, there is no such thing as "normal weather patterns" these days, so the units may end up in very different places.  In fact, one of the main objectives is to document natural forces that may govern variability in the distribution of settled lobster larvae.

What is the protocol to follow if a lobstermen sights one of these units shown in the picture below?   If the instrument is found washed up on the rocks, we ask that you take the unit home (if possible) and  call us.  We will have someone pick it up.   If the instrument is found drifting free,  we ask that you let it be and refer to the following protocol:If you happen to be close enough to one, you should be able to read an ID# associated with each  unit without needing to pull the unit out of the water.   Note that only the set of  four orange spheres and a center pole (possibly a colored flag) will be visible on the surface.  In a few cases the units will have antennae as they will be fitted with satellite link/electronics but in most cases the unit is constructed of PVC, styrofoam, cloth, and fiberglass rods.  After making note of the ID# and  position (loran or lat/lons), lobstermen are ask to report the fix (date, time, id, and position).   As of this writing,  there are four different options for reporting a fix:

  1. call R/V Oceanus which, for the first week of June 2003 anyways, should be in  the area on  marine band radio
  2. call 508-495-2211 and leave a voice message
  3. email james.manning@noaa.gov
  4. keep paper log and mail to: Jim Manning,  166 Water St, NEFSC/NOAA, Woods Hole, Ma 02543
Next summer we are planning to implement an automated toll-free "interactive voice response" protocol where lobstermen (and other boaters) will be able to report sightings via their phone key pads.  The fixes are dumped directly to a database.  Whatever the method used to report fixes, one may optionally provide their contact information if they would like to be sent  the history of a particular drifters path and the project in general..  Alternatively, one may find the full story at the above-mentioned "emolt.org" site.   Since we are most interested in day-to-day variation in drifter position,  no more than one fix per day per drifter is needed.  In fact,  to get a few fixes per week per drifter will satisfy the scientific objectives.

Drifters will be coded so the individual sighting it should be able to determine its origin. Each drifter will have a 5-digit ID#  "ABCDE"  etched into the PVC and painted on the flag as follows:

We appreciate your effort in cooperating with us in this pilot study and hope that those of you who read this can pass the word along to other lobstermen in your area.  The eMOLT project is an industry-based collaborative/scientific endeavor involving the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation.  It has provided funds to all the the major associations such as MLA & DELA for the last three years and,  depending partially on the success of next months pilot study, will be funded in the future.  So, while there is no direct compensation to participating lobstermen,  the industry benefits from your efforts.

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

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