Obed Fulcar, July 27, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Obed Fulcar
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 27, 2010 – August 8, 2010

Mission:Summer Pollock survey III
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date:  July 27,2010

Weather from the Bridge:

Time:05:26 am
Latitude:59.27 N
Longitude:176.58 W
Wind Speed:11.8 knots
Wind Direction:219 degrees W
Sea Temperature:9.4 C (48.92 F)
Air Temperature:8.27 C (46.88 F)
Barometric Pressure:1008 mb
Foggy skies


Conveyor Belt
Conveyor Belt

Thursday, July 22 (continuation): After my bout with motion sickness, I felt a lot better so I decided to finish my shift. Around 1400 (2pm) upon returning to the Acoustic lab suddenly I smelled the fish:they were trawling for Pollock! I rushed to the wet lab to find Darin and Story, my fellow Teacher at Sea, and a young scientist named Kathy Hough already in full gear, surveying the Pollock. The catch was coming down a chute and spilling over a conveyor where the fish was sorted out by sizes.

The targeted size Pollock was placed in crates to record the weight on a digital scale, while the rest, together with any giant jelly fish, or Northern Sea Nettle (Chrysaora melanaster) caught in the net were return overboard.

Northern Sea Nettle
Northern Sea Nettle

The next part of the survey involved dissecting each fish using a scalpel, making a cut across the left side of the underbelly in order to determine the sex and the content of the stomach. There was a large chart showing pictures of the way the female reproductive organs or ovaries and the male testes looked like at each level or size from 1 to 4.

The males were named “blokes” and the females“sheilas” (I believe these to be Australian terms). After the dissection the length of each fish was recorded automatically using a whitemeasuring board with a yellow metric ruler featuring a magnetic strip.

The final step involved selected specimens getting a cut above their heads in order to remove two tiny ear bones or “Otolith” that every bone fish have. They are used to determine the growth of the fish, and together with samples of stomach content they were preserved and placed in a freezer to be sent to a NOAA laboratory in Seattle for further analysis.

Working with the Pollock Survey has really hit home. All this fish made me think about “Sharky”our Brook Trout resident born 3 years ago in our cold water aquarium at MS319, as part of“Trout in the Classroom” a program where New York city students learn about conservation by raising trout from eggs to fingerlings, or juvenile size, and then they get to release them in a cold water stream upstate New York.

Trout is another fish that is part of the Alaska ecosystem, living and spawning in streams along the coast. The trawling reminded me of when we cast ourSeine nets on the Harlem River, as part of our Environmental Education after school program, in order to identify the fish and collect the data, just like the survey. I made a great connection when Darin, the young scientist working with us on the Pollock survey, told me that Pollock is called “Bacallao” in Portuguese. This reminded me that back in New York City, I noticed that for the past years in every “bodega” (spanish grocery store) the packaging containing Bacalao nowadays say Pollockinstead of what traditionally used to be Cod fish. Apparently there is an specie of Atlantic Pollock that has been historically consumed in Europe and in the Mediterranean countries of Portugal and Spain, so it is no surprise that we have incorporated Bacalao as part of the traditionalcooking of the Dominican Republic. Every self-respecting Dominican knows that Bacalao is a staple of Dominican cuisine.

Sex organs of pollock
Sex organs of pollock

I never liked fish as a child, and I remember that Bacalao was the only fish I actually enjoyed eating until this day, well seasoned in tomato sauce and onions, accompanied with rice beans or with yucca. This reminds me of another fish part of the dominican culinary culture: a form of dried, smoked fish (very smelly) known as“Arenque”. This fish, widely sold in bodegas and open markets is usually cooked in a paella style rice called “locrio”. 


I had a hunch that Arenque was Spanish for Herring, another fish like Pollock, found in the waters of the Bering Sea. After a little research I found out that indeed Arenque and Herring were the same. Arenque is the Spanish word for the Atlantic Herring (Clupea harengus), commonly fished and consumed in Spain, Portugal, and South America. Humm…Arenque=harengus (Latin),whence the English nameHerring. Eureka! Days later some Pacific Herring was caught in one of the trawls and I noticed it had large shiny scales, dark blue on the top, and silver ones in the underbelly. Some where cooked for diner that night and the meat was very tasty, looking like… Arenque.


Animal Species Observed:
Northern Sea nettle jellyfish, Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasi),Walleye Pollock (Theragra Chacogramma)

New Vocabulary:
Arenque, Bacallao, Bodega, Brook Trout (salvelinus fontanelis),Herring, Otolith, Seine Net, Scalpel

“Monitoreo del Bacallao”

El mareo no me permitio participar en la pesca de hoy, pero desde que me senti mejor fui directo a la cubierta donde una grua de carga habia depositado los peces en una rampa de aluminio hacia el Laboratorio Humedo. Ya adentro encontre a Story, mi colega maestra, Darin, y una joven cientifico llamada Kathy, que ya estaban trabajando con los pescados. El proceso consistia en separar el Pollock de otras especies como el Herring, y la Medusa Gigante, que despues de tomarse el peso eran arrojados por la borda. El Pollock era pues separado por sexo, entre “Blokes” machos, y “Sheilas”, hembras (terminos australianos), y esto se hacia por medio de diseccion, donde tambien se analizaba el contenido del estomago, usando un poster con fotos de los organos internos del Pollock a diferentes edades como guia. 

Luego de la diseccion procedimos a medir cada uno de los pescados, Story los machos, y yo las hembras, usando una tabla blanca con una cinta metrica amarilla, que contenia una cinta magnetica. Cada pescado era medido automaticamente al colocarse cuidadosamente a lo largo de la cinta metrica, y el conteo era registrado en una pantalla de computador con el nombre del cientifico. Me senti muy orgulloso al ver mi nombre como el cientifico de turno! El paso final era el de remover el “Otolith” o hueso del oido, usado para medir el crecimiento del pez, que junto a el contenido del estomago se preservaba para enviarse a los laboartorios de NOAA en Seattle. Tanto pescado me hizo pensar en “Sharky” la trucha mascota que hemos estado criando en el aquario de la escuela como parte del programa “Truchas en El Salon de Clases”. Tambien me recorde de cuando mis estudiantes tiran las redes de pesca para estudiar las especies acuaticas del Rio Harlem, como parte del programa de Educacion Ambiental que dirijo en la escuela MS319. Tambien estudiando el Pollock, aprendi que los portugueses le llaman“Bacallao”, casi identico a la palabra “Bacalao”, que es como lo llamamos en Republica Dominicana. Otro pez que junto al Bacalao son parte de la cocina tradicional dominicana es el Arenque. Yo tenia una corazonada que el Arenque era la misma palabra de un pez que en Ingles se llama “Herring”, tambien muy abundante en Alaska. Despues de hacer una investigacion, Eureka! resolvi el misterio. Arenque es la palabra usada para referirse al Clupea harengus o Arenque Atlantico, de donde viene tambien el termino Herring=harengus=Arenque. Todo Dominicano que se respeta sabe que el Bacalao y el Arenque son parte de la comida tradicional dominicana.

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