NOAA Commissions New Fisheries Survey Ship and Dedicates New Fisheries Service Building in Pascagoula, Miss.

November 6, 2009

NOAA Ship Pisces.

NOAA Ship Pisces is the third of four newly constructed fisheries survey vessels and is homeported in Pascagoula.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Senior NOAA officials today commissioned NOAA Ship Pisces, the nation’s most advanced fisheries research vessel, and dedicated a new fisheries laboratory in Pascagoula, Miss. The vessel and the NOAA laboratory will support fisheries research in the Gulf of Mexico, southeastern United States and the Caribbean.  

“Our fisheries and the marine ecosystems that support them are vital to our nation’s economy,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, who attended today’s ceremonies. “The knowledge we’ll gain from Pisces and the Pascagoula laboratory will greatly enhance our understanding and stewardship of these precious resources.”

Pisces, built by Pascagoula based VT Halter Marine, is equipped with high tech research equipment and quiet-hull technology. The vessel is so quiet and so advanced that scientists can study fish populations and collect oceanographic data with minimal impact on fish and marine mammal behavior.

The 208-ft ship is the third of four newly constructed NOAA fisheries survey vessels of the same class. Pisces is operated by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and is homeported in Pascagoula.

NOAA's new Southeast Fisheries Science Center’s Pascagoula laboratory.

NOAA's new Southeast Fisheries Science Center’s Pascagoula laboratory.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Pisces was named by a team of students from Sacred Heart School in Southaven, Miss., and christened by Dr. Annette Nevin Shelby, professor emerita at Georgetown University and wife of U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby.

The new Southeast Fisheries Science Center’s Pascagoula laboratory replaces the laboratory that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  At approximately 55,000 square feet, the building contains office space for 104 scientists, a library, and meeting rooms. This enables NOAA to consolidate several previously dispersed programs in the Pascagoula area including the Pascagoula Laboratory; National Seafood Inspection Laboratory; and the Documentation, Approval and Supply Services office.

One new feature at the facility is an environmental laboratory that will allow scientists to analyze environmental data such as temperature/depth profiles, oxygen data, and other environmental data collected on all survey cruises. These data will be useful in monitoring environmental factors such as hypoxia, but also will be incorporated into ecosystem models.
 
The structure is also designed to be more hurricane resistant, with a first floor elevation of 17 feet and is capable of withstanding winds up to 150 mph. Walton Construction, LLC, based in Kansas City, Mo., with an office in Harahan, La., led the design and construction team which includes partners such as HDR in Alexandria, Va., and Gibbens Drake Scott in Kansas City.

 NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.