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New Fisheries Research Vessel Gets Shakedown Cruise Off San Diego

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The latest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel is temporarily moored in San Diego. The $55 million ship will take several shakedown cruises before a scientific research trip along the West Coast.

The latest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research vessel is temporarily moored in San Diego. The $55 million ship will take several shakedown cruises before a scientific research trip along the West Coast.

The NOAA ship "Bell M Shimada" has the latest high-tech gear from sonar systems to an extremely quiet engine.

The "stealth operation" of the ship means scientists can monitor fish populations without altering their behavior.

The ship will also use a remotely operated vehicle or ROV to study fish species.

NOAA fishery biologist John Butler says the ROV is another way to do research without physically handling the fish.

"It's a non-lethal sampling technique," Butler said. "So we take video, take pictures, but the fish are still there."

The ROV will be used to conduct rockfish surveys off the coast of San Diego.

"We're surveying these banks, these offshore banks, that are prime habitat for rockfish," said Roger Hewitt, Assistant Director of NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center. "Several species of rockfish have been depleted over the years and we're monitoring their recovery."

Hewitt said the research will provide data to help maintain a healthy fishery.

The surveys have been conducted off Southern California in collaboration with the sport fishing industry.

The Sportfishing Association of California said the research work is vital to discovering which areas can be fished and which should be off-limits.

State statistics show sportfishing activities in California add $2.2 billion to the state's economy.

The new vessel will undergo a series of shakedown cruises next week before it heads out to sea for a research mission along the West Coast.

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