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John N. Cobb Sails Past
Half Century Mark

(Quarterly Report for Oct-Nov-Dec 1999)

items1_Cobb@sea.jpg (24978 bytes)

The NOAA research vessel John N. Cobb celebrates its 50th anniversary as a fisheries research vessel on 18 February 2000. The Cobb is NOAA’s oldest  research vessel and only wooden ship in the NOAA fleet.

Commissioned 18 February 1950, the Cobb began its service to the Fish and Wildlife Service, a forerunner of the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Cobb is designed after a west coast purse-seiner, with certain modifications to improve its seagoing characteristics. During its first year of operation while fishing for tuna off the Washington coast, scientists aboard the Cobb discovered a seamount, which now bears the vessel’s name.  In 1963 the ship was written up in the Encyclopedia Americana as the most advanced fisheries research vessel in the world. Even after one-half century of service, the ship is in excellent condition and still uses its original Fairbanks-Morse 1931-design engine.

The Cobb conducts fisheries and oceanographic research throughout the northern Pacific Ocean, utilizing almost every type of fishing method, including seining, trawling, and longlining. In the past, the ship conducted operations for the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Atomic Energy Commission,as well as every West Coast university.

Today, the Cobb is used for fisheries research activities in Southeast Alaska and U.S. Pacific coastal waters in support of the AFSC’s Auke Bay Laboratory and National Marine Mammal Laboratory. The ship collects fish and crustacean specimens using trawls and benthic longlines. It also collects fish larvae, eggs, and plankton using plankton nets and both surface and midwater larval nets. Bottom trawls can also be conducted to depths of up to 600 meters. Additionally, the ship conducts marine mammal surveys of whales, porpoises, and seals. The Cobb carries a full suite of electronic equipment.

The Cobb bears the name of a distinguished leader in the field of fisheries research, John N. Cobb. He was the founder and first dean of the University of Washington’s College of Fisheries. In the early 1900s, Dean Cobb served in the Bureau of Fisheries for 17 years. He is regarded widely for his untiring efforts in developing the College of Fisheries and for his data gathering on the fisheries of Alaska.

For the past 14 year, the Cobb has participated in Seattle’s Seafair Special People’s Christmas Cruise. The ship hosts special needs adults and their companions during a boat parade on Seattle’s waterways.

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