Federal officials in late August commissioned NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, a state-of-the-art research vessel that will study a wide range of marine life and ocean conditions along the West Coast.
“NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada represents a major step forward in NOAA’s effort 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 enable researchers to collect data on sea life and habitats with unprecedented accuracy.”
Bell M. Shimada’s 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 vessel is the fourth of a new class of ships designed to meet the NOAA Marine Fisheries Service’s specific data collection requirements and the International Council for Exploration of the Seas’ standards for a low acoustic signature. The ship’s capabilities include a sophisticated sonar system and equipment for deploying buoys and sensor-packed underwater vehicles. In addition to studying fish and marine mammals, researchers will also use the ship to observe marine bird populations.
“NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada will play a vital role in supporting NOAA’s mission to protect, restore and manage living marine, coastal and ocean resources,” said Steve Murawski, Ph.D., NOAA’s chief scientist for fisheries. “Equipped with the latest technology, this new vessel will enhance significantly our ability to conduct research 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.
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 US scientists. The ship will operate primarily in US waters from Washington State to southern California.