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Dispatches from the field

Scientists seek out the tiniest catch, larval fish in the Gulf of Alaska


larval survey collage
 Photos: Ali Deary, NOAA Fisheries

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Larval fish survey in Gulf of Alaska concludes

June 8, 2017 -- The end of the cruise has arrived! We collected our last few samples in beautiful weather with seas as calm as glass. In total, we fished our bongo sampler 269 times and our neuston 80 times. We collected over 450 samples in total. Of the samples we picked through for pollock, we recorded over 1,000 individuals!


USCG helicopter
U.S. Coast Guard helicopter hovering on the port side of the Oscar Dyson after completing a basket drop.  Photo: Ali Deary, NOAA Fisheries


Helping U.S. Coast Guard complete its drills

Although our survey is complete, we have not yet returned to the port in Kodiak because we agreed to help the U.S. Coast Guard complete some training drills. For many of their helicopter rescue drills, the U.S. Coast Guard uses a very small vessel. Therefore, it is a unique opportunity for them to practice their drills on a vessel the size of the Oscar Dyson (over 200 feet) and for the Dysonís crew to participate. For this drill, the helicopter will be lowering a basket used for at-sea evacuations to our deck crew three times at the back of the ship (stern) and another three times at the front of the ship (bow). Between drills, the deck crew of the Dyson will rotate so each crew member has the chance to participate.

Everyone is also being very careful because the helicopter can generate winds exceeding 90 knots (100 MPH) while it is hovering over the ship! For me, witnessing these drills was amazing and a perfect way to end a successful larval fish survey. We even saw puffins and sea otters as we were waiting for the helicopter to arrive!.


Preparing to return home

Kodiak in the distance
The commute home; after 3 weeks at sea, the ridgeline of Kodiak, Alaska, is a welcome site.  Photo: Ali Deary, NOAA Fisheries


Similar to the start of the cruise, a lot of work needs to be done before we can head home to Seattle. For example, when we finish our sampling, all the gear must be cleaned and packed before it can be offloaded and either stored in Kodiak or sent back to Seattle. Well-maintained gear lasts longer so we rinse and soak every item we used during the cruise in fresh water with some dish soap. Once the gear is dry, it all gets packed into large storage bins. This keeps all the gear together and organized so it will be easy to unpack and find for our next cruise on the Oscar Dyson in August. The samples and bins of equipment are shipped to Seattle.

With our scientific team safely back on land and our samples on their way to Seattle, I would like to thank the crew of the Oscar Dyson for making our research possible. Their hard work, skill, and ingenuity is unmatched and is reflected in the work we accomplished during this survey. On a research vessel, there is no such thing as a small task because every person contributes to the success of the scientific mission and we are grateful to be working with such a great team when we are at sea. If you are interested in the other scientific work that takes place on the Oscar Dyson, please check out their Facebook page (


Post by: Ali Deary


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