Commercial Fishing Vessels as Platforms for Coastal Ocean
Research, Monitoring, and Management

Progress Report

Ann Bucklin
New Hampshire Sea Grant Program
142 Morse Hall, University of New Hampshire
Durham, NH 03824
phone (603) 862-0122 fax (603) 862-0243 email

Peter H. Wiebe
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA 02543
phone (508) 289-2313 fax (508) 457-2169 email

Chrys Chryssostomidis
MIT Sea Grant Program
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA 02139
phone (617) 253_7131 fax (617) 258_5730 email

W. Gary Williams
Clearwater Instrumentation, Inc.
304 Pleasant Street
Watertown, MA 02172
phone (617) 924-2708 fax (617) 924-2724 email

Craig A. Pendleton
Portland Fish Exchange
31 Seaside Avenue
Saco, ME 04072
phone (207) 284-5374 fax (207) 284-1355 email

Award Number: N00014-98-1-0781
Website Address


This project, designated "FleetLink", will develop partnerships between commercial fishermen and researchers, educators, and coastal managers for the collection, real-time telemetry, analysis, assimilation, distribution, and use of environmental and fisheries data from coastal regions off the northeastern US. The FleetLink partners will equip participating commercial fishing vessels with integrated sensor systems (including navigational, hydrographic, and meteorological components), and link them via satellite to land-based centers for collection, management, analysis, and assimilation of data. We are working toward a goal of 100 or more fully-instrumented fishing vessels which may provide enhanced oceanographic and meteorological data collection capacity for coastal and offshore areas throughout the NW Atlantic.



Partnership Building: FleetLink is a partnership between researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and commercial fishermen. Leadership of FleetLink by New Hampshire Sea Grant ensures the extension of the results to a diverse group of end users. Sea Grant Extension staff at UNH and MIT are responsible for facilitating communication and coordination between the research and fishing communities. Fishermen's organizations, particularly the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), help build fishermen's interest in FleetLink and identify vessels for prototype demonstration. The FleetLink partnership has become an acknowledged player in the tangled world of cooperative (i.e., commercial fishermen and researchers) research programs in the Northeast US. The FleetLink concept has attracted interest from the National Weather Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, the Naval Oceanography Office, and state and quasi-governmental organizations (including the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Recovery Commission). We have built a working relationship within this nexus of organizations, from which we expect to identify partners, funding sources, and customers for our data.

FleetLink System Design and Operation: Three prototype FleetLink sensor systems have been produced and installed on commercial fishing vessels. Field demonstrations of the systems' capabilities began in November and will continue during routine fishing operations and planned experiments from January to July, 2001.

The FleetLink system consists of an on-board Pentium II based computer with LCD medium resolution screen; serial interfaces connect to oceanographic (sea surface temperature and temperature/pressure) and meteorological (wind speed and direction; air temperature, relative humidity, and pressure) sensors, an InmarSat satellite C communication Transmit/Receive unit, and a GPS receiver. Data from the FleetLink Sensor System are acquired by a PC_based system mounted in the vessel's pilothouse. MIT developed this system using commercially-available hardware, standard software modules, and a custom_developed software application referred to as "WheelHouse". The WheelHouse software application incorporates multitasking using several software packages, including Athena (a shipboard sensor interface program developed at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for its research vessels). Data on fishing activity and relevant observations are entered by the captain using custom graphic user interfaces (GUIs) that accept touch screen, mouse, and keyboard entries. Control of WheelHouse functions, including GUIs and data displays, is through pull_down menus. Specific GUIs facilitate the gathering of vessel, trip, tow, and catch data, as well as comments by the captain on any aspect of the boat or its operation. The display of sensor data is facilitated using a strip chart feature linked to each sensor's data stream. The receiving system is a LINUX-based PC located at WHOI which receives, serves, and stores the environmental and fisheries data. With the exception of the fishery catch data (which are confidential), the processed data are available to end users.

Prototype Demonstration: FleetLink sensor systems have been installed on three commercial fishing vessels: F/V Susan & Caitlyn (Portland, ME), F/V Glenna & Jacob (Fall River, MA), and F/V Adventurer (Portland, ME). Operation of the prototype FleetLink systems is being demonstrated during January to March, 2001, while all three vessels are engaged in their usual fishing operations. We expect that the F/V Susan & Caitlyn and F/V Glenna & Jacob will be shrimping in the Gulf of Maine (working out of Portland, ME) during much of this period, while the F/V Adventurer will be trawling farther offshore.

Outreach: We have tapped a genuine interest and need in the fishing community for better ocean and meteorological data, for near-real-time and open access to fisheries catch data, for confidential communication between vessels at sea and their home ports. We have identified fishermen in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts who are committed to ocean monitoring and research.


The FleetLink partnership provides a mechanism for bringing together those involved in the fishing industry, the oceanographic community, and the federal agencies responsible for resource assessment and management. Successful completion will entail broad cooperation among coastal resource managers in programs and agencies across the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Transportation. This effort will also result in better, largely automatic, and near real-time method of reporting offshore meteorological and sea conditions for use by a wide variety of communities, and for reporting catch records to local cooperatives. There is a pressing need for better environmental data from coastal and offshore marine waters in order to effectively monitor the health of the ecosystem, and to more effectively manage marine resources.

Publications resulting from this award:

A. Bucklin, C. Goudey, K. Ekstrom, P.H. Wiebe, R. Groman, W.G. Williams, R. Barnaby, C.A. Pendleton (2001) FleetLink: Collection and Telemetry of Ocean and Weather Data from Commercial Fishing Vessels. Sea Technology (manuscript in review)

Last modified: January 24, 2001