NOAA Ship Oregon II conducts a variety of fisheries, plankton and marine mammal surveys in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
The 170-ft. ship's mission includes supporting the National Marine Fisheries Service's annual bottom longline red snapper/shark survey, during which researchers catch, measure, tag and release the fish to acquire the data used in stock assessment for many of the coastal species of sharks, as well as commercial snapper and grouper species. Using gear modeled after commercial shark fisheries, the survey has been running continuously since 1995.
During survey missions, observers stationed on the ship's flying bridge watch for marine mammals or floating debris using high-powered "big eye" binoculars. When pods are encountered, the ship breaks from planned operations and investigates each sighting.
Oregon II is patterned after North Atlantic distant-water trawlers, designed for extended cruising range, versatility of operations, habitability and seaworthiness.
The ship uses trawls and benthic longlines to collect fish and crustacean specimens. The ship's longline gear consists of one nautical mile of mainline with 100 hooks, which soak for a total of 1 hour. The ship uses plankton nets and surface and midwater larval nets to collect plankton.
Oregon II was originally built for the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, Department of the Interior, as a replacement for the fishery research vessel Oregon, a converted 100-foot tuna clipper that carried out most of the federal fishery research work in the Gulf and southwest Atlantic beginning in 1952. The ship was commissioned in the NOAA fleet in 1975. Oregon II is homeported at NOAA's Gulf Marine Support Facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi.