Northeast Fisheries Science Center
Oceanography Branch

Shelf-Wide Plankton Surveys

Shelf-wide Research Vessel Surveys are conducted 6-7 times per year over the continental shelf from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, using NOAA research ships or charter vessels. Three surveys are performed jointly with the bottom trawl surveys in the winter, spring and autumn. An additional four cruises, conducted in winter, late spring, late summer and late autumn, are dedicated to plankton and hydrographic data collection. The Cape Hatteras to Cape Sable area is divided into four regions, and 30 randomly selected stations are targeted for sampling from each region. The following samples and data are collected routinely. Zooplankton and ichthyoplankton are collected throughout the water column (to a maximum depth of 200 meters) using paired 61-cm Bongo samplers equipped with 333 micron mesh nets. Samples are preserved in formalin for subsequent laboratory analysis. Over 300 plankton taxa are sorted, identified and enumerated by staff at the Sea Fisheries Institute in Poland through a joint studies program. Data received by the Plankton Investigation are quality controlled and loaded into ORACLE tables; data is available by request (contact

Links to individual Ecosystem Monitoring Cruise Reports are posted here.
Links to the plankton data collected on ECOMON cruises are posted here.
Links to the Continuous Plankton Recorder data are posted here.
Water column temperature and salinity data are collected simultaneously with the plankton tows (see Shelf-wide Water Properties).
Surface water properties also are measured along the vessel track during these surveys (see Along-track Surface Water Properties)

Data from this program have supported numerous analyses documenting the seasonal and interannual variability in the distribution and abundance of the dominant zooplankton taxa on the northeast continental shelf.

For further information contact:

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