NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
July 1 — 14, 2013
Mission: Marine Protected Area Surveys
Geographic area of cruise: Southern Atlantic
Date: July 7, 2013
Air temperature: 27.°C (81.5°F)
Barometer: 1022.50 mb
Wind direction: 195°
Wind speed: 6.1 knots
Water temp: 26.6° C (79.3°F)
Latitude: 34 44.62 N
Longitude: 75 91.98 W
Science and Technology Log
There are several major objectives of this survey cruise.
(1) To survey established MPAs to collect data to compare to previous years’ surveys.
An important aspect of these cruises is to establish the effectiveness of an MPA. In some MPAs there is usually no fishing allowed. This includes trolling. bottom fishing (hook and line) as well as all commercial methods of fishing. The MPAs we are studying are Type II MPAs where trolling is permitted. They are looking for seven specific target species.
- Blue Line Tilefish
- Golden Tilefish
- Misty Grouper
- Snowy Grouper
- Yellowedge Grouper
- Speckled Hind (a grouper)
- Warsaw Grouper
According to Andy, these species have been chosen due to their commercial value. During each dive a record is taken as to the type of species seen. We are specifically looking for the target species but we are keeping track of ALL the species that we see. I think it is fantastic to see scientists get excited about seeing something new. So far we have seen Oceanic Sunfish (2), Redband Parrotfish, Tautog (a more northerly found fish), Longsnout Butterflyfish and one fish species that we have not identified yet. There is an emphasis on Lionfish counts to assist in gauging how the introduction of this invasive species is affecting the overall fish populations. In some areas the Lionfish numbers have increased dramatically over the years. Today we actually saw one try to eat a smaller fish! They are very abundant in some locations and not in others but they have been present in 95% of our dives.
(2) Survey outside of the MPAs.
You may ask “Why survey outside the area?” We want to know if the MPAs are indeed doing what they were designed to do: protect fish species. That was very evident in Jacksonville where the numbers and size of Gag Grouper and Scamp far exceeded the numbers and size outside the MPA.
(3) Survey new sites for possible MPA designation.
There is a process that is followed when determining if an area is a suitable MPA candidate. What we are doing on this cruise is both mapping and surveying new areas that have been proposed as MPA sites. This is the ground level stage. The MPAs in the region that we are in are ultimately determined by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
Data during the dives is collected in a few ways. There are several video monitors that we watch and we call out species that we see. A data keyboard, like the one Harbor Branch uses for invertebrates counts, is used to keep track of types and number of each species seen. During every dive a video from the camera on the ROV is recorded and species are highlighted and recorded on to the DVD. This data will be analyzed thoroughly back at the lab and then sent to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
I am happy to announce that I have finally gotten my sea legs. It wasn’t as bad as I had envisioned but I was definitely concerned that it would be a major issue. We had some weather on Thursday, July 4 and that was the worst of it for me. I now hardly feel the vessel move. It has been fun over the past several days. We are in the lab most of the days so we only get to really see the crew at mealtimes and after dinner. The crew, from the CO to the engineers, are all great people. They are happy to answer questions, point you in the right direction and are quick to say hi and ask you about your day. Yesterday afternoon one of the engineers, Steve, gave us a tour of the engine room. All of the ship’s infrastructure is supported by this room. The engines run the generators for power, support the a/c, house the desalination filters (all the fresh water on board comes from salt water) as well as getting the boat from point A to point B. I was impressed!
Today after our last ROV dive, a school of Mahi mahi followed it (the ROV) up to the surface. The fishing was on! The crew brought out rods, reels and bait and the fishing commenced. Collectively we managed to land one bull or male and 2 smaller Mahi mahi. It was a nice diversion for all of us, scientists and crew, as we were back to work all too quickly. Fish tacos for dinner!
Fair weather and calm seas.
Did you know that…
Some grouper can grow to be so huge that when they open their mouths to feed, they create a suction that is powerful enough to inhale small prey.