Jennifer Petro: Finding the Fish, July 7, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Petro
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
July 1 — 14, 2013 

Mission: Marine Protected Area Surveys
Geographic area of cruise: Southern Atlantic
Date: July 7, 2013

Weather Data
Air temperature: 27.°C (81.5°F)
Barometer: 1022.50 mb
Humidity: 73%
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

Today we find ourselves off of the coast of northern North Carolina where we will be for the next few days.  An exciting aspect about this cruise is that we will be multi-beam mapping (a blog about that very soon) and sending the ROV down for surveys in new areas off of North Carolina.  For the past few days I have been working with the team from the Panama City Southeast Fisheries Science Center identifying fish.  This can sometimes be a very difficult prospect when the ROV is flying over the fish at 2 knots.  The team from SEFSC consists of Andy David, Stacey Harter and Heather Moe.  David is a 23 year veteran of NOAA and has been working on the MPA project since 2004.  Stacey has been working on this project since its inception as well.  Heather is new to the team and is just coming off of a 1 year assignment with the NOAA Corps at the South Pole.
There are several major objectives of this survey cruise.

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.

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.

A Speckled Hind seen inside the North Florida MPA.

A Speckled Hind seen inside the North Florida MPA.

A Warsaw Grouper seen inside the North Florida MPA.

A Warsaw Grouper seen inside the North Florida MPA.

Stacey Harter, LT JG Heather Moe and I watching the big monitor and calling out the fish that we are seeing to be recorded.

Stacey Harter, LT JG Heather Moe and I watching the big monitor and calling out the fish that we are seeing to be recorded.

(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.

Andy David recording for the ROV video log species of fish we are seeing on the dive.

Andy David recording for the ROV video log species of fish we are seeing on the dive.

(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.

A Gray Triggerfish protecting a nest of eggs.  Seen in the Edisto MPA as well as in a proposed site off of North Carolina.

A Gray Triggerfish protecting a nest of eggs. Seen in the Edisto MPA as well as in a proposed site off of North Carolina.

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.

Personal Log

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!

One of the 4 Caterpillar engines that keep Pisces running ship shape.

One of the 4 Caterpillar engines that keep Pisces running ship shape.

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!

Hoping I can land this one!

Hoping I can land this one!

Fair weather and calm seas.

Jennifer

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.

Jill Stephens, June 28, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 28, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Position: 55°08.501’N  161°41.073W
Visibility: 10+ nautical miles
Wind: 250° at 12 knots
Pressure: 1024.1 mbar
Temperature: Sea 8.3°C;  Dry bulb 10.0°C;  Wet bulb 7.8°C

The device that collects the information for the Moving Vessel Profiler is referred to as the “fish.”

The device that collects the information for the Moving Vessel Profiler is referred to as the “fish.”

Science and Technology Log 

The day began a bit overcast as Shawn Gendron, Manuel Cruz, Dennis Brooks and I set out in RA 4. Manuel is working on his HIC qualification, so he ended up running the equipment and the boat quite a bit today. The process involved in attaining the Hydrographer in Charge certification takes approximately one year to complete.  To become HIC qualified, you must complete the HIC workbook and demonstrate proficiency in all areas of hydrography covered by NOAA in addition to demonstrating boat handling skills. (I could probably get a few things checked off myself!) Manuel handled the first cast by himself, then allowed me to help with the second cast, and complete the third cast on my own.

The MVP can be controlled with buttons located on a handheld wand.  See it my hands?

The MVP can be controlled with buttons located on a handheld wand. See it my hands?

The data retrieved from the casts was good and so there was not a need for any recasts. We have been trying to perform a cast at the beginning, middle and end of the day to provide adequate information regarding depth, temperature, and salinity.  It is also necessary to take casts from various locations within the work area in order to accumulate necessary information to integrate with the raw data from the multi-beam sonar to depict the contour of the sea floor. We were supposed to use the MVP, Moving Vessel Profiler, today instead of the CTD.  When we attempted to start the equipment, an alarm sounded and would not shut down.  The computer also lost communication with the “fish.” (The fish is the data collection device that is placed in the water.) The MVP is similar to the CTD, except that it has a different top and is attached to a cable that extends beyond the stern of the boat.  The MVP collects the same information as a CTD, but instead of a snapshot at selected locations, it can provide continuous depth, conductivity, and temperature readings by automatically taking repeated casts.

After our return to the ship, the MVP system was reviewed by the Field Operations Officer. The operating instructions were reviewed and it was determined that some key steps were not represented correctly.  These omissions were corrected. The launches all have laptops that are being used to convert files from Hypack into Caris. Converting the files on board the launch allows hydrographers and survey technicians the opportunity to review the seafloor surfaces searching for areas of incomplete coverage.  Shawn converted some files and gave me the opportunity to practice cleaning away errant returns or “noise.”

The unit pictured above is one of the two desalination systems for the ship.

The unit pictured above is one of the two desalination systems for the ship.

Personal Log 

Tonight after supper, Mary Patterson, (Teacher at Sea from Texas), and I went on a tour of the engine room with one of the engineers.  I knew that the engines for this ship would be massive, but was unprepared for just how massive they are.  NOAA Ship Rainier was put into commission in 1968 and still has her original engines.  The engineers pride themselves on the excellent maintenance that has enabled the engines to continue to perform well.

All of the ship’s power and freshwater originates in the engine room.  The ship has two generators that can be used to provide electrical power to the entire ship. Electrical outlets, radar, sonar, computers, and lights are among the items that use the power supplied by the generators. Normally, only one of the generators operates at a time and sometimes when in port, the ship is able to connect to shore power and shut down both generators. 

A necessity aboard ship is a continuous supply of potable water.  The ship has two desalination systems located in the engine room.  Sea water is taken into the system under pressure and exposed to heat within the unit.  The evaporated water is collected in trays and sent on to be treated with purification elements.  The salt residue is then returned to the sea.  Each unit has the capacity to produce approximately 150 gallons of fresh water per hour.

Question of the Day 

How does the desalinization technology of 1968 compare to desalinization technology today?