NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 16 – 21, 2010
Mission: Ecology of Juvenile Fishes
Geographical Area: Central Oregon/Washington Coast
Current Location: 35 miles offshore, steaming to Seattle, WA
Date: Sunday, June 20, 2010
Today is my last full day aboard the Miller Freeman. It is currently 4:00 pm and I have just woken up! I find that being on a ship rocks me to sleep. Or, could it be that I was up until 6:00 am this morning? Either way, I am fully rested and ready to rinse and store all of the scientific equipment in preparation for our departure tomorrow morning. We are currently steaming towards Seattle, Washington where we will depart the ship.
Our work on Saturday turned out to be very interesting. While pulling the midwater trawl, a small pod of Pacific Whitesided dolphin became interested in our tow. They swam very close to the net for a time and had everyone worried that they may become entangled. Luckily, they lost interest and swam away. If they had become entangled in the net there are many protocols that would have been implemented. The marine mammal stranding unit in Washington would have been called, a representative would have been sent to meet the ship, and many photographs taken as documentation. It is always a concern that marine mammals may become entangled in nets but fortunately, this time was not one of those cases.
The catches from our midwater trawl brought up the familiar species of krill, purple lanternfish, rockfish, and hake. Since the depth of this trawl does not target adult fish, we have been dealing almost exclusively with juvenile and larvae fish. Our last haul produced more larvae rockfish than usual, which is good for the scientists conducting this survey. They are, however, trying to determine where the largest concentrations of juvenile rockfish are during the season. Rockfish are an important species in the Pacific Northwest. It would be easy for you to think of how important flounder are in our area. Rockfish are harvested for sale in fish markets and therefore are threatened by over harvesting. It is important to monitor their movement and habitat in order to determine when and where Pacific Hake regulations should be put in place. Another commercially important species is the Pacific Hake. This fish is deboned and sold as fish sticks in the grocery store. I’m sure that most of you have eaten a Pacific Hake and didn’t even know. These fish are commonly caught by fisherman and, just as the rockfish, their populations are threatened by over harvesting. When Pacific Hake are caught in the midwater trawl, their length is measured, recorded, and the fish are returned to the ocean. All of the data collected by the scientist involved in this study will help to ensure the survival of these commercially viable species. More importantly, keeping their populations stable will mean that the food web remains intact. Just as we have discussed in class many times, everything on earth has its place. Something else always depends on it for food, shelter, survival, and well being.
Since today is the last full day on board we will be preparing the equipment for transport back to Newport, Oregon. It is important that everything is rinsed with freshwater to prevent corrosion. After being rinsed and dried, we will package everything in boxes. Our bunks will be stripped, our lockers emptied, and staterooms cleaned. Although my time on board is coming to an end, I know that I will have many memories and experiences to share with you when I return.