Nicolle von der Heyde, June 19, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicolle Vonderheyde
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 14 – July 2, 2010

Nicolle von der Heyde
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Dates: Saturday, June 19

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1000 hours (10:00am)
Position: latitude = 27°34 N, longitude = 096°28 W
Present Weather: mostly clear
Visibility: > 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: SSE Wind Speed: 13 knots
Wave Height: 2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 29.5°C
Air Temperature: dry bulb = 29.4°C, wet bulb = 27.8°C

Science and Technology Log

One of the goals of the SEAMAP Reef Fish survey is to monitor the health and abundance of reef fish to establish limits on how much fish the fishing industry can take out of Gulf waters. SEAMAP stands for Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program and is a State/Federal/University program for collection, management and dissemination of fishery-independent data and information in the southeastern United States.

Due to the oil spill in the Gulf, the fish we capture will be weighed, measured, frozen, and delivered to the Seafood Inspection Laboratory (NSIL) in Mississippi to be tested for hydrocarbons (oil) or other contamination to ensure that the seafood is safe to eat. Since the oil spill is far to the east of where we are doing the survey, our data will serve as a baseline and be compared to future studies to see what the extent and future impact of the oil will be in these waters.

Fish in Chevron Trap
Fish in Chevron Trap
Fish in wet lab
Fish in wet lab

The fish are taken out of the Chevron Trap or off the Bandit Reel and brought into the wet lab.

The first measurement we take is the weight (or mass) of the fish in kilograms (kg) using a motion compensating scale. One scientist will take the measurements while another records the data in a data table.

Fish being weighed
Fish being weighed
Fish being measured
Fish being measured
Recording the data
Recording the data

Next, we take three different measurements of length by placing the fish on a board that has a metric measuring tape attached. All length measurements are measured in millimeters (mm). First, we take the Total Length (TL) measurement which is from the mouth of the fish to the longest point on the tail. Then we measure the Fork Length (FL) from the mouth of the fish to the indention of the tail. The last measurement is the Standard Length (SL) which is from the mouth of the fish to the base of the tail.

Diagram of fish lengths
Diagram of fish lengths

Personal Log

I love having another Teacher at Sea with me to share this experience and discuss ideas for lessons based on the research we are conducting on board. What’s even better is Melinda’s enthusiasm about jumping right in and getting her hands dirty. She has no problem handling the slippery, stinky squid that is used to bait the Chevron trap (the Snapper in the top left photo didn’t get a chance to finish his last meal) or grabbing a slimy Red Snapper that has dorsal fin spikes and gill rakers as sharp as razor blades. For me, it’s taken a little getting used to. Just look at my facial expressions during my first attempt at measuring the fish.

Red Snapper did not get a chance to finish its last meal
Red Snapper did not get a chance to finish its last meal
First time measuring a fish
First time measuring a fish
First time weighing a fish
First time weighing a fish
First time measuring a fish
First time measuring a fish

What really gets me is the fish could just be lying there motionless one second, and then the next it begins to thrash and jump and flip itself right over…it startles me every time. After this first attempt at measurement, I began using thick gloves with grip to handle the fish – it helped.

Occasionally there is time at the end of the day for the crew on board to do some fishing. Just before sunset is prime time to catch fish, although so far, besides the jackpot reeled in the day we found the dead Sperm Whale, there have only been a few catches. One great phrase I’ve heard uttered by the crew more than once after over an hour of patiently waiting for the line to jerk is, “Well, that’s why they call it ‘fishing’, not ‘catching’.” I must admit it’s a peaceful way to end a long day of work.

The crew fishing
The crew fishing
The crew fishing
The crew fishing

Animals Seen

Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)

Silky Shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) – Caught and released by a deckhand while fishing

Wire Coral (Cirrhipathes leutkeni) – Reeled up along with the Crinoid while fishing

Crinoid (species unidentified) – shown below

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