Recovering monitoring instruments from the sea-floor - without a diver!

On September 1st our Enterprise crew assisted Professor Kristen Davis of UCI and Geno Pawlak of UCSD in recovering their ADCP sensors from positions at the ranch. The units were collecting detailed data on current direction and magnitude from the bottom to the surface. This data was collected continuously from initial deployment on 5/17/2017. This 107 day deployment provides detailed information on the wave activity at the ranch, as well as indication of any potential impact on local currents the ranch may be having. Additionally, a vertical mooring of 14 oceanographic sensors (temperature, salinity, chlorophyll levels) was recovered. 

The unique aspect of this recovery was the use of our BlueROV2 from Blue Robotics, without any assistance from divers. On past sensor recoveries the ROV would locate the target, and 3rd party divers would recover the hardware by attaching a lift line from the Enterprise crane. This time, a prototype spring-clip carabiner was brought by the ROV to the targets, both locating and capturing the device on a single dive. Check out the action below!

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Deployment and Operation of the Imaging Flow Cytobot at Catalina Sea Ranch to Support Real-Time Monitoring of Harmful Algae, Phytoplankton Assemblages, and Inverterbrate Larvae

A $300,000 NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy research grant was awarded to UCSC to deploy a CYTOBOT in an operational framework at Catalina Sea Ranch for monitoring phytoplankton composition.

The Image Flow through CYTOBOT takes one 5-ml water sample at a time, and processes it through an imaging microscope that triggers whenever chlorophyll is detected. Machine vision then captures the area of the flow cell with the single phytoplankton, saving the image for classification and statistical analysis. This technology serves as an early warning system for HABs (harmful algae blooms) and provides data for scientists to evaluate the micro-biome marine organisms for advancing offshore aquaculture husbandry monitoring.

The CYTOBOT transfers realtime data to the cloud from onboard the NOMAD buoy for remote monitoring via continuous sampling from the ranch. The primary goal is to consistently and cost-effectively incorporate observations of HABs, phytoplankton community composition, and invertebrate larvae into the Catalina Sea Ranch aquaculture facility monitoring programs, so that these metrics can be used for aquaculture operations and ecosystem assessments. This will allow assessing quality, cost, and reliability of data from the CYTOBOT as compared to traditional methods, as a demonstration for aquaculture best practices for regulators, resource managers, scientists, and the public.

There are plans to expand the image classifier for the CYTOBOT to include invertebrate larvae of additional sustainable mollusk and macroalgae marine crops (e.g. mussels, oysters, scallops, barnacles, kelp, etc).

The Cytobot visible in the NOMAD's aft compartment during installation

The Cytobot visible in the NOMAD's aft compartment during installation

Catalina Sea Ranch installs mussel harvesting equipment

The past two months have been very busy ones for Catalina Sea Ranch staff. Harvest equipment was received from New Zealand company ANSCO, and efforts have been underway fitting it to our harvest boat, the Enterprise.  This equipment uses 3 dedicated hydraulic water pumps, a clean-diesel hydraulic power pack, and a power take off from the main engine to create the symphony of mechanization that will allow crew to harvest up to 8,000 pounds per hour!

Mussels enter the machinery via the continuous 8,000 foot long grow lines - this first function pulls this rope through opposing rubber plates, shearing off the mussels from the rope. They progress through the de-clumper, which breaks the large groups of mussels gently apart while cleaning them with high pressure water. From here, the mussels are lifted with a bucket elevator (center of picture) and fed to a grader machine, which sorts them by size. Next, they enter a debyssor, to remove the bissell threads, or "beards." Finally they are inspected and sorted into 5 pound bags, and placed immediately onto ice. Once each 500 pound tote is full with 100 bags, the next tote is filled. Once the harvest for the day is complete, the Enterprise returns to shore and offloads directly into distributor's refrigerated trucks, ensuring the freshest mussels are available to the consumer. 


Catalina Sea Ranch has developed a program for monitoring its offshore aquaculture operations with research conducted by leading institutions specializing in marine ecology and marine spatial planning. This will provide science-based data for evaluating any environmental and social impacts from the initial 100-acres for expansion.

NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observation System (IOOS) arranged the donation of a NOMAD buoy as the platform for the remote monitoring program. The NOMAD is anchored at the corner of the Company’s aquaculture facility and equipped with technologies for transmitting real-time data for remotely monitoring of environmental, security and sustainable aquaculture husbandry functions. 

The NOMAD is instrumented with a SeaBird systems MicroCat sensor, collecting information on temperature, dissolved oxygen, and salinity thanks to a partnership with Dr. Kristin Davis, Assistant Professor Civil & Environmental Engineering &
Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine.  Dr. Davis has also provided a subsurface string of temperature and fluorometer sensors providing insightful data for the concentration and distribution of phytoplankton - the food mussels constantly consume by filter-feeding. Additionally, a pair of ADCP (Automated Doppler Current Profiler) devices have been deployed, to precisely measure the ocean currents under the ranch which is critical for understanding environmental impacts and increasing aquaculture husbandry capability.

Catalina Sea Ranch intends to expand its capacity with additional monitoring technologies. The NOMAD's large size and power capacity provides and ideal platform for the development of marine technology for security, scientific, and energy research. For instance, a Vemco VR2C shark tag receiver will soon be installed to monitor when tagged predators are in the area. Stay tuned for more updates!