Optical benthic surveys using the Habitat Mapping Camera (HabCam)

Project leads: Tasha O'Hara, Liese Siemann, and Luisa Garcia

Funded by: NOAA Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside

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CFF's Habitat Mapping Camera (HabCam) is a non-invasive imaging system that uses a dual camera system to take six paired stereo images per second of the seafloor, giving us the ability to process images in 3D and build mosaics of benthic habitats. Integrated oceanographic sensors continuously monitor conductivity, temperature, salinity, and turbidity throughout the survey transects, and this data is appended to the metadata for each image. This allows each image to provide a full “snapshot” of the environment and its inhabitants along each survey route.

Since 2017, CFF has managed and executed annual surveys of the sea scallop (Placopecten magellanicus) resource in scallop access areas throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions utilizing the HabCam v3 towed-array system. This survey is a collaboration between CFF researchers and our fishing industry partners in New Bedford, MA, with input from government resource managers and scientists. The primary objective of this annual survey is to document the distribution, survival, and growth of sea scallops to inform science and management decisions. The system is towed 24-hrs a day during a survey, collecting over half a million images per day. All images are annotated at regular intervals, so each annotated “station” is, at most, a few hundred meters apart; this is significantly closer than most standard gear-based resource survey stations. Additional information on the distribution of potential scallop predators, bycatch species, substrate, and oceanographic conditions are also collected.. 

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Map showing abundant pre-recruit scallops from our 2020 survey of Georges Bank.