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On February 13th, the Oscar Dyson – a NOAA Fisheries survey ship – was slated to leave port in Kodiak to survey pre-spawning Pollock in the Shumigans and then in the Shelikof Strait. But before they could steam to the survey grounds, they realized that the engine was experiencing a mechanical failure and replacement parts had to be ordered.
The ship had already had a five-day delay due to a COVID case onboard- before departure, the whole crew had to be tested. According to Maggie Mooney-Seus, a spokesperson for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, it resulted in the survey’s cancellation.
“The engineers have been working on the engine and the survey is timed to capture pre spawning fish, Pollock, in particular and we could not delay. So we had to cancel this survey,” Mooney-Seus said.
That left the Oscar Dyson waiting in port for engine work, with the goal to make the Shelikof Strait section of the survey on March 2. There was a further delay past that date due to a fire pump failure. And to make a bad situation worse, the ship’s crew reported more COVID-19 infections.
The Oscar Dyson was finally able to leave town on March 8, after missing the Shumigan Pollock survey and a week late to the Shelikof Strait Pollock survey. According to Mooney-Seus, that’s not a good thing for fisheries management.
“We never want to lose a survey, it all provides data- in this case, important information to inform our Gulf of Alaska Pollock Stock Assessment. It is one source of information, we do have other sources of information that do go into that stock assessment from other surveys, as well as the actual fishery themselves,” Mooney-Seus said.
She says there is no way to know how the absence of that information will affect the management of the fishery; with fewer data points, it is possible that the annual Pollock assessment will be less precise than other years.
“It’ll have to be what the stock assessment scientists determine in the fall. And then from that, they make a recommendation on the status of the stock, and then the resource managers would set a quota based on that. And it’s a number of people that are involved in that process. So I wouldn’t want to speculate about what’s going to happen,” Mooney-Seus said.
Throughout the rest of the year, the Oscar Dyson is scheduled for several ecosystem surveys, as well as research on several different seal populations.