1. To carry out a mackerel egg survey within a predefined survey area in the Celtic Sea and Biscay region from 43N to 52N.
2. To collect fish samples, by trawling, for atresia and fecundity analysis back at the laboratory.
The vessel will be loaded on the morning of 26 March in Ullapool to be ready for sailing first thing on 27 February. MFV Altaire will proceed south, first through the Minch and then to the west of Ireland to the first plankton station southwest of the Fastnet Rock at 51 15N 10 45W. Surveying will then proceed in a south easterly direction down through the Celtic Sea and down to Biscay with the sampling locations tracking on and around the 200 m isobath. The most southerly station on the outbound leg is located at 43 30N 02 15W. Sampling on the inbound leg will then proceed back in a north-westerly direction covering the remaining stations within the survey area left over from the outbound leg. In total there are approximately 50 plankton stations within the survey area covering both outbound and inbound legs. Plankton stations will be sampled using the Gulf VII sampler with mounted CTD, which will record salinity and temperature during the tow. The plankton tows will require the vessel to deploy the sampler at 1-2 knots, and then steam at 5 knots. The sampler will then be lowered at a steady rate (10m/min) from the plankton crane to within 5 m of the seabed or 200 m - whichever is shallower. The sampler will then be recovered at the same speed. Once aboard, plankton samples will be washed from the sampler net, fixed in formalin and scored for egg abundance. Trawl samples will be taken at the discretion of the scientist in charge. There should be a maximum of 8 trawls for the whole survey, with the trawl being deployed at suitable locations within the survey area.
Once the transect at 52 45N has been completed, and depending on the time available, the survey will proceed back north surveying the transects missed out during the first half. The vessel will return to Ullapool for unloading on 12 March 2015. Normal contact will be retained with the laboratory throughout.