Well, first we have this reassuring (at least if you’re not that familiar with the capacity of NOAA Fisheries to get it really, really wrong!) statement that “NOAA Fisheries is actively monitoring and adjusting to the COVID-19 national health crisis” (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/noaa-fisheries-coronavirus-covid-19-update). Nothing to worry about, right? Well, not quite nothing. While I’ve seen nothing official, word on (at least some of the New Jersey) docks is that, in spite of the ongoing and very possibly worsening national Covid-19 health crisis, the mandatory on-board observers are back in force and demanding rides.
A few FishNet issues back I wrote about NOAA Fisheries (used to be National Marine Fisheries Service. It’s still the same people and the same institutional hang-ups) cancelling research cruises by the NOAA “Navy” which, up until the pandemic crisis, were carrying out surveys that were a supposedly critical part of the agency’s fisheries management mission. Apparently those particular surveys weren’t so critical after all.
To date those cancelled “critical” NOAA surveys are:
NOAA Fisheries will Cancel Five Alaska Research Surveys for 2020
Announcement of survey cancellations in 2020.
NOAA Fisheries Cancels Four Fisheries and Ecosystem Surveys for 2020
The Summer Ecosystem Monitoring, Northern Shrimp, Autumn Bottom-Trawl, and Summer/Fall Plankton surveys have been cancelled for 2020.
NOAA Fisheries Cancels Three West Coast Surveys for 2020
The Groundfish Bottom Trawl Survey, California Current Hake Research Cruise, and California Current Ecosystem Survey have been cancelled for 2020.
NOAA Fisheries Cancels Remaining Hawaiian Islands Surveys for 2020
The annual Hawaiian monk seal and sea turtle field season deployment, a portion of the main Hawaiian Islands bottomfish survey, and the main Hawaiian Islands corals assessment are cancelled for 2020.
NOAA Fisheries Cancels 2020 Southern California Shelf Rockfish Hook and Line Survey
The Hook and Line (H&L) Survey has been cancelled for 2020.
(Note that while I don’t have any idea if this list represents the sum total of NOAA Fisheries cancelled research surveys or not, I do know that the cancelled cruises represent many millions of taxpayer dollars tied up at the dock – and incurring even more significant maintenance costs while tied up).
In addition, NOAA/NMFS offices are closed to outsiders and meetings/hearings and other official activities have either been cancelled or have been reorganized to be Covid-19 compliant. For examples see the New England Fisheries Management Council’s plans for a hearing on Groundfish Monitoring Amendment 23 (at https://tinyurl.com/y5m9fkub) and the notice of cancellation (excerpted below) of the annual citizen scientist beluga whale census for 2020 at https://tinyurl.com/y497wv4p).
“Given the continued uncertainty around travel restrictions and the expected continued need for social distancing, our annual Belugas Count! event, scheduled for September 19, 2020 has been canceled. We hope to see you all in September 2021.
If you decide to venture out along Cook Inlet on your own please follow the current state and local health mandates.
If you happen to observe beluga whales incidental to your adventures please report them to the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo ID Project.
Every sighting counts but above all else please keep your loved ones and community safe.”