Saildrones are being used to monitor pollock in the Bering Sea Photo: SaildroneSaildrones are being used to monitor pollock in the Bering Sea Photo: Saildrone

A two month survey of the eastern Bering Sea using three saildrones has begun in an attempt to understand more about pollock abundance.

For the past four decades, a team of scientists has conducted an acoustic trawl survey from a NOAA research vessel in the eastern Bering Sea but these standard surveys have been cancelled this year as a result of the Covied-19 pandemic.

In late June, after some 40 days at sea, the three saildrones arrived at Unimak Pass, a 20-nautical-mile gap between Unimak Island and Ugamak Island that separates the North Pacific Ocean from the Bering Sea. Each saildrone will cover a third of the 600-nautical-mile-wide survey area, which is bordered by Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to the south and the edge of the eastern Bering Sea shelf to the west.

Each vehicle is equipped with a Simrad EK80 high-precision split-beam echo sounder collecting measurements of fish abundance and distribution. This survey builds on work instrumenting saildrones with the sonar technology used in fisheries surveys that began in 2015 involving NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Research’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Kongsberg Maritime, and Saildrone.

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