LANSING, MI – The Department of Natural Resources has announced that the construction of its new Lake Huron fisheries research vessel, the Research Vessel (R/V) Tanner, has started with the award of a contract to Andersen Boat Works of Saugatuck, Michigan.
“The R/V Tanner will replace the aging R/V Chinook, which has been operating on the Great Lakes since 1947,” said Jeff Diemond, DNR Fisheries Division boat captain. “The R/V Chinook is the senior citizen of our Great Lakes fisheries research vessel fleet, designed and built by Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin, in 1947 and needs to be replaced with a modern vessel to improve safety for the vessel’s crew and significantly upgrade our research capabilities.”
The 50-foot, steel-hulled R/V Chinook, previously known as Patrol Boat #3, was first commissioned as a Department of Conservation Great Lakes Law Enforcement vessel. She gained her present name in 1968 when she was transferred to the Fisheries Division’s Alpena Great Lakes Station, where she has served as the department’s research platform for all of Lake Huron and the St. Marys River.
“Data collected by the R/V Chinook over the last 46 years have been instrumental in measuring impacts of sea lampreys on trout and salmon, invasive species, and the effects of fish stocking and fishery management on Lake Huron’s fish stocks,” said Dr. David Fielder, DNR research biologist.
The new vessel, R/V Tanner, is named after former Fisheries Division Chief and DNR Director Dr. Howard A. Tanner and was designed by Seacraft Design of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. It will be a 57-foot, aluminum-hulled vessel closely modeled after the R/V Lake Char, the DNR’s Lake Superior fisheries research vessel launched in 2007.
“The R/V Tanner will allow staff at the Alpena Fisheries Research Station to continue their work on Lake Huron and the St. Marys River with tremendous improvements in safety, flexibility and dependability over its projected 50-plus-year life span,” said Diemond. “Crew safety is greatly improved with a state-of-the-art navigational system and a compartmental hull design, which maximizes the ability of the vessel to stay afloat in the event of an emergency.”
Unlike the R/V Chinook, which is powered by a single engine, the R/V Tanner will be powered by twin engines and will have a greater cruising range and speed. Similar to the R/V Chinook, the R/V Tanner will be rigged for sampling with nets and trawls, using a crew of five to six while under way. The R/V Tanner also will be equipped with the latest in hydroacoustic survey equipment to expand its fisheries assessment capabilities.
“In addition to supporting continued scientific management of Lake Huron’s economically important lake trout, walleye and yellow perch fisheries, the R/V Tanner will be an integral component of the DNR’s invasive species surveillance efforts across the basin,” said Todd Wills, area fisheries research manager with the DNR.
Construction will take place over the next year, with delivery scheduled for April 2016. A final resting place, including an educational display, is being explored for the R/V Chinook after its decommissioning.
To learn more about the department’s Great Lakes fisheries vessel program, visit Fisheries Division’s website.