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NOAA Takes Delivery of New Fisheries Survey Vessel

Bell M. Shimada to support marine research on the West Coast

February 2, 2010

NOAA's newest fisheries survey vessel, Bell M. Shimada.

NOAA's newest fisheries survey vessel, Bell M. Shimada.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA has taken delivery of Bell M. Shimada, the agency’s newest high-tech fisheries survey vessel.      

Bell M. Shimada’s primary mission will be to study, monitor and collect data on a wide range of sea life and ocean conditions, primarily in U.S. waters from Washington state to southern California. The ship will also observe environmental conditions, conduct habitat assessments and survey marine mammal, sea turtle and marine bird populations.

The vessel is the fourth of a new class of ships designed to meet the NOAA Fisheries Service’s specific data collection requirements and the International Council for Exploration of the Seas’ new standards for a low acoustic signature.

Bell M. Shimada represents a significant achievement in the agency’s efforts to modernize its fleet of fisheries, oceanographic and hydrographic survey ships,” said Rear Adm. Jonathan Bailey, director of the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and the NOAA Corps. “This highly capable ship will play a key role in supporting NOAA’s mission.”

Launched in September 2008, the 208-ft. Bell M. Shimada was built for NOAA by VT Halter Marine Inc., in Moss Point, Miss., as part of the NOAA’s fleet replacement strategy to provide world-class platforms for U.S. scientists.

Bell M. Shimada’s state-of-the-art design allows for quieter operation and movement of the vessel through the water, giving scientists the ability to study fish and marine mammals without significantly altering their behavior. The ship’s comprehensive environmental sampling capabilities will also enable researchers to gather a broad suite of marine life data with unprecedented accuracy.

“As one of the quietest research vessels in the world, Bell M. Shimada produces so little background noise that we can count fish and assess the health and behavior of marine species with highly sensitive acoustic devices,” said Jim Balsiger, acting assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “The vessel will support ecosystem research that is essential to sustaining and rebuilding fisheries.”

Bell M. Shimada was named by a team of students from Marina High School in Monterey, Calif., who won a regional NOAA contest to name the vessel. The ship's namesake served with the Bureau of Fisheries and Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, and was known for his contributions to the study of tropical Pacific tuna stocks, which were important to the development of West Coast commercial fisheries following World War II. Bell M. Shimada’s son, Allen, is a fisheries scientist with NOAA’s Fisheries Service.

The NOAA fleet of ships and aircraft is operated, managed and maintained by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps and civilian wage mariners.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.