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Commendations for the 2012 FISHPAC Project

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The FISHPAC project is investigating whether quantitative information about seafloor characteristics can be used to improve existing habitat models for eastern Bering Sea groundfish and crab species. The project is a collaborative effort between the Center’s Habitat Research Group (HRG), two other branches of NOAA, the U.S. Navy, and outside technical experts. Although primarily a scientific study, the project also provides hydrographic-quality bathymetry data for updating NOAA nautical charts in areas with outdated or non-existent information. During 2012, five different sonar systems acquired acoustic backscatter over a large area in the Bristol Bay region of the eastern Bering Sea. These data will be combined with trawl-survey catches to determine the most cost-effective system for broad-scale characterization of seafloor habitats.

Several commendations have been issued to recognize outstanding contributions during the 2012 FISHPAC cruise. The officers, crew, and support engineers of Fairweather were awarded a Unit Citation from former Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco. Captain Mark P. Ablondi, Executive Officer of NOAA Fisheries, and Dr. Bob McConnaughey,  FISHPAC chief scientist and HRG leader, presented a plaque to the Commanding Officer James Crocker on 23 April, along with 46 certificates to members of Fairweather’s complement. The award stated that “an ambitious cruise plan for the multi-mission FISHPAC project was accomplished due to uniformly high levels of personal commitment, technical proficiency and leadership” and that “all departments made significant contributions to prepare the vessel and to maintain fully productive and safe operations under extremely challenging and high-tempo conditions at sea.”

Dr. Lloyd Huff, an underwater acoustics expert, was selected as 2012 NOAA Fisheries Team Member of the Year for the AFSC. The award recognized his extraordinary contributions to the agency mission over the period 2004-2012. In particular, Dr. Huff has served as the cornerstone of a technical team working to develop and transition a prototype acoustic instrument, the Klein 7180 long-range sidescan sonar system (LRSSS). The LRSSS is a complex underwater platform (towfish) consisting of multiple acoustic, environmental, and navigational sensors that is distinguished from all other sonar systems by its ability to collect fully corrected quantitative information about seafloor characteristics and to do so at high speed over a very broad swath of ocean. It is being developed to address the need for a more efficient survey system to simultaneously accomplish broad-scale characterization and mapping of essential fish habitat (EFH) and reconnaissance hydrographic surveying.  Dr. Huff volunteered to join the scientific party for the 21-day cruise on Fairweather in 2012, during which time he worked tirelessly during multiple shifts each day to assure the proper operation of the LRSSS and the integrity of 3.7 terabytes of multi-purpose data collected during around-the-clock operations.

Steve Intelmann, a member of the HRG program, was recognized for his technical skills, creative use of internal and external resources, and an impressive commitment to success during a long and challenging period leading up to and including the 2012 FISHPAC cruise. His contributions yielded substantial improvements in the accuracy and precision of data from the LRSSS and the eventual biological and hydrographic products. The professionalism, competence, commitment, and resourcefulness of support personnel from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Keyport were also recognized in a letter from the AFSC to their Commanding Officer. Mark Moody (team leader), Edwin Draper, William Heather, James Hosford, and James Husted were recognized for very high levels of technical competence and commitment to the FISHPAC project. Finally, sincere thanks to all FISHPAC partners for their many significant contributions.

By  Bob McConnaughey



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