CFRF - WHOI Shelf Research Fleet

General Description:

The CFRF, in partnership with scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), is organizing a fishing vessel research fleet to conduct weekly oceanographic sampling across the continental shelf and slope south of Rhode Island. The purpose of the project is to study changes in oceanographic conditions, particularly temperature, in order to better understand how these changes may impact the distribution and abundance of key fisheries resources.

Project Goals:

The project aims to:  1) Measure the seasonal transitions and stratification patterns over two years to examine the development and breakdown of the seasonal thermocline, and 2) Assess the frequency, timing, and extent of onshore penetration of warm, saline intrusions of slope and Gulf Stream waters onto the continental shelf. The long-term goal is to understand how changes in large scale forcing, including Jet Stream position, affects seasonal stratification and transitions, annual temperature and salinity extremes, and cross-shelf exchange processes during a period of rapid change. 

Project Team:


  • Glen Gawarkiewicz, WHOI

  • Frank Bahr, WHOI

  • Anna Malek, CFRF

  • Aubrey Ellertson, CFRF


  • F/V Aces High - Point Judith, RI*

  • F/V Brooke C - Point Judith, RI *

  • F/V Cailyn Grace - Sakonnet Point, RI*

  • F/V Debbie Ann - Point Judith, RI*

  • F/V Erica Knight - Point Judith, RI*

  • F/V Excalibur - Newport, RI*

  • F/V Heather Lynn - Point Judith, RI*

  • F/V Mister G - Point Judith, RI*

  • F/V Sakonnet Lobster II - Tiverton, RI

  • F/V Timberwolf - Point Judith, RI*

  • F/V Virginia Marise - Point Judith, RI*

* Indicates vessels that have collected data



To participate in the Shelf Fleet Research, please review the CFRF Shelf Research Fleet Briefing Document  and submit a CFRF Shelf Research Fleet Vessel Application.

Data Collection Strategy:

Fishermen participating in the Shelf Research Fleet deploy a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth instrument) over the side of their vessels on a weekly basis to collect vertical profiles of temperature and salinity from designated zones within the study area. The data obtained is available for viewing onboard the fishing vessel using iPad tablets.  Fishermen have the option of entering notes regarding general observations, such as: tides, weather conditions, bottom type, and targeted species in the fishing area to submit as supplementary information to the scientists receiving the CTD data. Participating fishermen will have a chance to participate in workshops with WHOI scientists to share their on-the-water observations about fish movements in the study area, discuss the data collected, and help interpret the results.

Project Timeline:

  • July 2014 - October 2014 – Selection and establishment of fishing vessel research fleet, equipment and protocol preparation, establishment of data management system and online data portal
  • November 2014  – Training of shelf research fleet participants
  • November 2014 – May 2017– Weekly collection of oceanographic data from each study zone; ongoing data compilation and communication with shelf research fleet participants
  • June 2017 – Preparation of final report and peer reviewed publications, and outreach

Project Data & presentations:

Other Sources:

Media Coverage: