NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 26 – August 8, 2013
Mission: Shark and Red snapper Longline Survey
Geographical Range of Cruise: Atlantic
Date: Thursday August 1, 2013
Weather Data from the Bridge
SW WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS
SEAS 3 TO 5 FEET
INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP
SCATTERED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS
Science and Technology Log
Today we did two sets and haul backs. For the first haul back, I was on the computer recording hooks retrieved. The computer system records the hooks as they are set out, keeping track of the number and the latitude and longitude as it is put on the longline. During the haul back, the hook number is recorded when it is retrieved as well as its latitude and longitude again. Then on another pop-up screen, it asks if there was a fish on the hook or if the bait was missing, whole, or damaged. This data complements the data recorded on the fish brought up by giving a complete look at each station. I like doing data collection, whether on the computer or on paper recording the sharks’ measurements.
During the second haul, which we began as the sun began to dip into the horizon, I decided to really try handling the sharks. And what a wonderful experience it was.
When handling the sharks there are so many factors to remember. First, I have to get the measurements of that shark to the data recorder. But while I’m doing that, I have to remember that I am holding a living thing that is entirely out of its element – a true fish out of water. And while sharks might be intimidating (They are. Trust me.), they’re also fragile. Hooks are sharp and unsympathetic, so those of us handling have to take extra care not do exacerbate the damage done by the hook.
The circle hooks, pictured below, are designed to catch a shark or fish without the hook being swallowed, which would be much more harmful and reduce survival rates. But they are still really difficult to remove. First, they are difficult to remove because of the barb, which is there to keep the shark or fish from being able to flail itself off the hook. But they’re also difficult to remove because sharks’ skin is incredibly tough. The sharks I have touched range from feeling like really tough, thick leather to various grit sandpaper. The one exception so far for me was the Scalloped Hammerhead, which was really smooth. Upon further conversation with Kristin, I’ve learned that circle hooks have also been shown to reduce sea turtle mortality. It is thought that they might also reduce the mortality of by-catch (unintended catch) in tuna fisheries, though this theory needs further study to be validated.
Working out the hooks really intimidated me because while trying to get a sharp pointy object out of a shark, the shark is often flailing and flapping trying to get away from me. I found myself talking to each shark, assuring it that I was on its side and was trying to be as gentle as possible.
Ultimately, it’s a really great experience to handle sharks and I felt so proud of myself each time I removed a hook. But the best feeling in the world is releasing that shark and watching it swim away. I would always yell goodbye and release a “yay!” that the shark swam away.
What a personally satisfying day. I could not be happier that I successfully handled sharks today. I feel like I’ve contributed to the team. I’ve done something that has to be done for each set and haul – recoding data, racking hooks, etc. – but now that I’ve handled sharks successfully, I definitely feel more useful.
I also feel like I’m finally adapting to the heat. It’s still overwhelming when I go from the air conditioned interior to the full force of the sun at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, but I’m not as drained by it. That added with the excitement of handling the sharks and the possibility of seeing different species with each haul back has really kept me quite upbeat!
On top of the excitement, it’s just generally a really good time with these people. I feel like I’ve made life-long friends and hope to see and keep in touch with them.
Meet the volunteers:
– Kevin Travis:
- Kevin just graduated from high school and will be going to the University of Tampa in the fall. He plans to study Marine Biology. This is his first survey
– Holly Perryman
- Holly is a graduate student at the University of Miami. This is her second survey. She was a volunteer on the Fall Groundfish survey last year.
– Arjen Krijgsman
- Arjen is a native of the Netherlands, but has been in the United States teaching for the last three years. Prior to teaching in the United States, he worked in schools doing various jobs in Russia, Japan, and Egypt. He is looking forward to becoming a US citizen. Volunteering on the Oregon II has become a hobby and feels a lot like coming home. He says “You come out a few times and people get to know you. It’s really quite lovely.” He loves the time spent on the water.
– Claudia Friess
- Claudia is a native of Germany, but she’s been in the United States since she was 17. She graduated from high school outside of Houston, Texas and currently resides in Austin, Texas. She is a fisheries analyst with Ocean Conservancy.
– Page Vick
- Page just graduated from University of Central Arkansas. She joins the cruise after doing an internship with the Gulf Coast Research Lab. This is her first survey on the Oregon II.
– Ian Davenport
- Ian is from Manchester, England. He is currently working in the Biology Department at Xavier University after completing his PhD at Clemson University. He studies shark evolution and development. This is his fourth survey with NOAA.
This group of people have become fast friends and I am incredibly proud to work with them each day. I look forward to seeing what adventures they’re off to after this.
Did You Know?
There is a new unit of measurement aboard the Oregon II. It’s 5 feet and a quarter inch and it’s called a Julie.
As in “that shark was about one Julie long.”