- Recent observational programs to understand the coastal ocean, like the Oregon Coastal Ocean Observing System (OrCOOS) are under development (www.orcoos.org). A challenge in facing observing systems is achieving spatial and temporal coverage at scales that are useful for ocean modeling. Observational buoys are relatively few and towed arrays and gliders can only cover a small area of the ocean. As a result there are limited year round oceanographic records at sufficient spatial scale in the waters off Oregon to characterize the important physical processes that affect our coastal oceans.
Therefore, the purpose of this research project was to assess the interest of Oregon commercial crab fishermen and test the long term feasibility of an ocean monitoring strategy. Commercial crab fishermen spend many, many days at sea each year. Their crab pots, each clearly positioned using GPS, cover much of Oregon’s coastal ocean from the near shore to the shelf break. Incorporating ocean observation gathered from instruments attached to crab pots has the potential to substantially increase the data available to the OrCOOS program and ocean researchers. The initial results of this research project are very encouraging. While little if any scientific conclusions may be drawn from the limited data set thus far, the concept of a cost effective partnership with local commercial crab fishermen and the application of small temperature logger technology has been demonstrated. The use of environmental sensors on crab pots for ocean research and monitoring applications documented several significant oceanographic events. It became obvious that multiple scales of variability could be captured including upwelling interrupted by warm events, relaxations, or reversals of the wind. Furthermore, this research project was set up to test the long-term feasibility of an oceanographic monitoring strategy using crab pot fishing gear and expectations of finding anything significant from crab catch during exploratory statistical analysis was low. However, there were some interesting weak to moderate significant correlations (spearman’s rho) between Dungeness crabs (males and females) with region fished, bottom temperature, and depth, respectively. This information could be used in partnership with the Oregon Crab Commission and State agencies to study adult crab biology and ecosystems for management planning and meet MSC criteria for sustainability certification.