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NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow at sea The Bigelow underway. Credit: NOAA
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March 14, 2018

Shelley Dawicki, NOAA Fisheries
David Hall, OMAO

NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow Shipyard Update

NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow Returns to Service

NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow is underway for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s annual spring bottom-trawl survey. NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations operates and maintains the vessel, and has been has been overseeing a series of emergency and planned repairs to the ship since August, 2017.

“It's good to get the Bigelow back in service. I am very thankful to the number of people and organizations that facilitated the repair and helped fill the science gaps,” said Jon Hare, NEFSC director.

The Henry B. Bigelow supports critical science programs in the region and the interruption in service affected several NEFSC research cruises. These cruises support assessments of fishery and marine mammal stocks and their management. The data collected are also used by scientists around the region to understand changes in marine life and their habitats over time.

The ship was unexpectedly taken out of service when a propulsion motor failed in late July of 2017. Issues with the second motor were also found. The ship was subsequently dry-docked so that the motors could be removed, and to complete other repairs that were already scheduled. For the longer term, the Center continues to evaluate using commercial fishing vessels to supplement fisheries surveys conducted by NOAA ships.

September 22, 2017

Shelley Dawicki, NOAA Fisheries
David Hall, OMAO

NEFSC fall research cruises will go on, with some modifications

The annual NEFSC Fall Bottom Trawl Survey will be conducted on the NOAA Ship Pisces, which is a fishery survey research vessel similar to the Bigelow. Only Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine will be surveyed. The two most southerly areas, the Mid-Atlantic and Southern New England have been dropped.

If all goes smoothly in preparing the Pisces to support the survey, October 16 is the target start date carrying on through November 20.

Fishing gear will be moved from the Bigelow onto the Pisces, and some devices will be installed for monitoring trawl performance while the gear is fishing. Supplies and equipment needed for the survey are already aboard the Bigelow, and will be transferred to the Pisces. The modifications to Pisces are underway.

In a typical year, the Fall Bottom Trawl Survey occupies an average of 377 stations across the Northeast Continental Shelf from the Cape Hatteras to the northern Gulf of Maine in four segments, or legs. Each leg covers a different area beginning in the south and ending in the north.

The number of stations in the Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine survey areas will be similar to past years. Fewer data will be collected at each station because Pisces has less fish handling capacity than the Bigelow. However, samples critical for stock assessments will be collected, including lengths, weights, and hard parts used for aging fish (usually scales and ear bones). Two other NEFSC research cruises planned for this fall were also delayed by the Bigelow repair, and will be conducted on other ships.

The first leg of the Fall Ecosystem Monitoring cruise has been moved to the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter, an oceanographic research vessel. This cruise collects oceanographic data and plankton samples and has been conducted from the Gunter in the past. There is no firm plan for Leg 2 of this cruise, but the Bigelow is an option if it is ready as scheduled. A beaked whale sighting survey was moved onto a chartered vessel, the R/V Sharp, operated by the University of Delaware, and has been completed with fewer objectives than originally planned.

Meanwhile, repairs continue on schedule for the NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow. The ship is expected back in service in early November 2017.

August 29, 2017

Teri Frady, NOAA Fisheries
David Hall, OMAO

NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow Shipyard Update

Return to Service Date Extended into November

NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which operates and maintains the vessel, estimates that the ship will be back in service in early November, about two months later than originally estimated. In late July, a propulsion motor failed and the ship returned to port for repair, which was more extensive than initially thought and will require specialized parts.

Several Northeast Fisheries Science Center research cruises have been affected. A beaked whale survey will be conducted later this year on the R/V Hugh Sharp, operated by the University of Delaware. The center is working with OMAO on options for using other NOAA ships for some or all of the annual fall bottom-trawl survey and the ecosystem monitoring cruise, which usually occur between September and late November.

For the longer term, the center continues to evaluate using commercial fishing vessels to supplement fisheries surveys conducted by NOAA ships. A gear trial with the F/V Nobska is planned for this fall.

August 3, 2017
Contact: Teri Frady

NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow Headed for Shipyard

Expected to Resume Service in September

NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow is heading into dry dock in Norfolk, Va., to undergo motor repairs but is expected to return to service in mid-September to start the NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center annual fall bottom-trawl survey on the Northeast continental shelf.

The ship’s officers and crew and the NEFSC scientific party are ensuring that the cruise can start from the shipyard if necessary. The ship is normally readied for cruises at its homeport in Newport, R.I.

The Henry B. Bigelow supports a variety of marine research for the NOAA Fisheries’ NEFSC. The twice-yearly bottom trawl survey of fish and invertebrates is the longest running of its kind in the world, and collects data used to understand changes in marine life and their habitats over time.

The Bigelow’s typical operations during the year also include plankton and water sampling, acoustic surveys, coral mapping, oceanographic data collection and sampling, and sighting surveys for sea turtles, marine mammals, and sea birds.

Commissioned in 2007, the 208-foot, $60 million Henry B. Bigelow is a multi-purpose fishery research vessel. Its special hull construction allows researchers to study fish and other marine animals without significantly altering their behavior with its noise. Also, the ship can conduct bottom and mid-water trawls while also running physical and biological-oceanographic sampling. This allows it to support more than one scientific mission on each deployment. Its laboratory and computing capacity allow scientists to get a start on analyzing information while still at sea.

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