Kevin McMahon: NOAA Divers Rescue Ghost Trap, Goodbye Pisces, July 17, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kevin McMahon

Aboard NOAA ship Pisces

 July 5 – July 18, 2014

 

Mission: Southeast Fisheries- Independent Survey

Geographic area of the cruise: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina and South Carolina

Date: July 17, 2014

Weather Information from the Bridge

Air Temperature:             26.3 °C

Relative Humidity:           80 %

Wind Speed:                   20.1 knots

 

Science and Technology Log

Catching fish in hard bottom habitats is not without its risks. Sometimes, the traps can get caught on a ledge and the rope breaks when the ship tries to pull up the trap. This is what happened on Wednesday. When a trap is lost and stays in the water, it is sometimes called a “ghost trap.”

The first thing I thought about was the fish that were stuck in the trap. Oh no, how will they get out? The good news is that the trap was creatively designed. It has an escape door that is held shut by zinc clips. Zinc is a type of metal that deteriorates in salt water. In a few days, the zinc clip will break and the door will open so the fish can get in and out of the trap. Hooray for whomever thought of that design!

 

This clip is designed to deteriorate in salt water. It will break apart in a few days and an escape door will open so that fish may freely move in and out of the trap.
This clip is designed to deteriorate in salt water. It will break apart in a few days and an escape door will open so that fish may freely move in and out of the trap.

 

The second thing that I thought about was the two cameras. It would be sad if we could not use them again for future surveys. And, there could be some interesting observations to be made from the video footage.

 What Are The Next Steps?

The purpose of our mission was to collect data about fish populations for fish species that are important to humans, including grouper. Currently, there are limits in place for how many grouper can be caught each year.   These limits are in place so that there are grouper for future generations to enjoy.

We now have a lot of data from deploying over 200 traps, with each trap having video footage from two cameras. We caught 54 groupers. They included red grouper, scamp, gag, rock hind, and graysby.  In a quick glance at the video footage, we saw many grouper that decided not to go into the trap. It will take a lot of time to review all the video footage. But after all the video footage is analyzed and the MeanCount is determined, what happens next?

Take the poll below and vote on what type of grouper is in the middle of this photo.
Two scamp that did not enter the trap.

The next step is for our data to be added to the other data from all the other Southeast Fishery- Independent Survey cruises. Scientists will look at this data, along with other data from commercial fishermen, and make some conclusions about what they think is happening to the populations of these fish.

Based on these findings, policymakers will decide whether the current limits should be changed or stay in place.

In the end, the goal of everyone should be the same: making sure that groupers are here for a long, long time so future generations of people can enjoy them.

Personal Log

I have gotten used to life on a ship. Some things are harder to do, like exercising. Have you ever tried to run on a treadmill on a ship while it is rocking back and forth and side to side?   I was never very good at running on a treadmill on land. It is twice as hard when you are at sea.

The food has been fabulous. We eat meals three times a day.   We eat a lot of good fish, like fried grouper and fish tacos. Some of my non-fish favorites have been flank steak, barbeque chicken, pizza, meatball subs, and black bean burgers. And, no matter how rough the boat is rocking, I am still able to get to the dessert table for cookies, or ice cream, or cupcakes, even if my path is not a straight one.

 

This is a photo of the "galley." It is the name of the place on board where we eat our meals.
This is a where we eat on the Pisces.

We have been lucky with the weather too. We have only had one day where it rained most of the day. The waves have only been in the 4-6 foot range during the rough times.

I feel very fortunate to have been chosen to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea. I have learned so much about fishery research and ocean floor mapping. I am happy to have played a small role in collecting this important data.   I can’t wait to share this knowledge with my students.

I can’t thank enough Nate Bacheler and the other scientists on board for letting me share this adventure with them. I would also like to thank the crew of the Pisces. They were very knowledgeable and helpful.   I hope our paths cross again. Goodbye Pisces.

You may be wondering about the trap that we lost.  I have good news.  Ensigns Jim Europe and Hollis Johnson saved the day.  They are NOAA divers.  They are also part of the NOAA Corps-one of the seven uniformed services of the U.S. and the officers that drive the ship. They retrieved the lost trap and the cameras very carefully.  Great job, Jim and Hollis!  You can learn more about the NOAA Corps here:http://www.noaacorps.noaa.gov/

Jim and Hollis getting ready for their dive. Hollis is from Georgia.
Jim and Hollis getting ready for their dive. Hollis is from Georgia.
NOAA divers and support crew head to the location of the ghost trap.
NOAA divers and support crew head to the location of the ghost trap.

 

I would like to end this personal log with a few more of my photos that did not make it into earlier blog entries.

Kevin McMahon is adding bait to the trap. It looks yummy.
Kevin McMahon is adding bait to the trap. It looks yummy.

 

Rainbow as seen from the stern of the Pisces.
Rainbow as seen from the stern of the Pisces.

 

Beautiful sunset
Beautiful sunset

 

A tulip snail wandered into one of our traps.
A tulip snail wandered into one of our traps.

 

Two toadfish surprised us in the last trap of our survey.
Two toadfish surprised us in the last trap of our survey.

 

Kevin McMahon trying to figure out why this creature is called a squirrelfish. Credit: Adria McClain
Kevin McMahon trying to figure out why this creature is called a squirrelfish. Credit: Adria McClain

Did you know?

The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.

Can you think of a few ways that the ocean affects humans? Can you think of a few ways that humans affect the ocean?

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