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Groundfish Assessment Program

Habitat Researchers Participate in Advanced Technology Workshop

Members of the RACE Division’s Habitat Research Group (HRG) participated in the NOAA Office of Coast Survey’s (OCS) 2010 Field Procedures Workshop held in Seattle on 26-28 January. This is an annual national meeting concerned with review and discussion of protocols for the acquisition and processing of hydrographic data by NOAA.

A total of 50 technical presentations and open discussions occurred during the 3-day workshop. Part of the workshop focused on better understanding other users’ needs for the data OCS acquires and how best to move forward in support of the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IOCM) initiative. The IOCM initiative is an emerging NOAA-wide effort to acquire, manage, integrate, and disseminate ocean and coastal geospatial mapping data. This effort seeks to provide easy access to these data and their derivative products for a diverse group of public and private end users.

To be successful, IOCM requires a high level of coordination within the agency and with other groups engaged in seafloor mapping. The NOAA IOCM vision is to “Map once, use many times.” To this end, Bob McConnaughey and Meghan McGovern were invited to discuss HRG research that is looking at the utility of acoustic seabed backscatter for characterizing essential fish habitat (EFH), while at the same time producing new bathymetric data for nautical chart updates in areas with outdated or nonexistent information. Their joint presentation titled “Using quantitative backscatter in fish habitat models” provided background and rationale for the fisheries research component as well as technical considerations related to acquisition and processing of backscatter data from hydrographic multibeam echosounders. The presentation was intended to help the OCS community better understand program requirements for backscatter and how they can be met. Backscatter acquisition and processing currently is not an OCS specialty, and there is not a specific set of requirements or deliverables.

The workshop also presented an opportunity for strategic-planning discussions with OCS leaders about future joint projects. Detailed planning for “piggyback” testing of the acoustic positioning system on the NOAA ship Fairweather during a hydrographic survey this summer in Washington’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) also took place, involving the HRG, the ship’s command, OCS principals, and the OCNMS chief scientist for that cruise.

By Bob McConnaughey


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