Stephen Kade: What is Long Line Fishing? August 19, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Stephen Kade

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

July 23 – August 10, 2018

 

Mission: Long Line Shark/ Red Snapper survey Leg 1

Geographic Area: 30 35’ 34’’ N, 80 56’ 48’’ W, 20 miles off the coast of Jessup, Georgia

Date: August 2, 2018

Weather Data from Bridge: Wind speed 14 knots, Air Temp: 27c, Visibility 10 nautical miles, Wave height 2 ft.

Science and Technology Log

Longline fishing is a technique that consists of one main fishing line with many baited hooks that come of that line on shorter lines, (like branches off a tree) attached at various distances. Long lines are used in both coastal areas and the open ocean and are often placed to target specific species. If the long line is suspended in the top or mid depth water, it is called pelagic longline fishing. If it is on or near the ocean floor by weighting it down to the sea floor, it is called bottom longline fishing. A high-flyer buoy is placed at either end to mark the position of the line in the water so boats can see it while submerged, and so it can be found when it needs to be retrieved. Weights are placed on each end and the middle of the line to hold the line down to a specified depth.

Longline_KadeTAS2018

Computer created infographic of long line fishing process by NOAA TAS 2018 Stephen Kade

On board NOAA Ship Oregon II, the mission is a red snapper/shark longline fishing survey in the Gulf of Mexico and the Western North Atlantic coast. I was on the first of four legs of the survey that left Pascagoula, Mississippi, rounded the bottom of Florida and stopped for 44 stations between West Palm Beach FL, up to Cape Hatteras, NC, and back down to Port Canaveral, FL. NOAA’s mission is to research current shark and snapper populations in specific areas as determined by NOAA shark scientists and related state Fishery Departments.

The Oregon II has a large spool of 3mm monofilament fishing line on deck. For our survey, we used a line that was one mile long, and had 100 baited hooks approximately 50 feet apart. The hooks are attached to the line by gangions. Gangions are 12 foot long monofilament lines with a hook on one end and a manual fastener at the other end that can be taken on and off each time the line is deployed. All 100 hooks on the gangions are baited with Atlantic mackerel.

numbering gangions

The team attaches the gangion numbers and hands over for deployment

To deploy the line into the water, it takes a team of 6 people. The first person strings the line from the spool and through various pulleys along the length of the ship moving toward the back of the boat before tying it to the high flyer buoy and returning to the spool control to deploy the mile long line into the water. A team of two works to attach a specific number tag onto each gangion, and then to retrieve the 12 foot long gangion from a barrel. The numbered, baited, gangions are handed one by one to the next team member who attaches the gangion of the main long line every 60 feet as the line descends into the water. This crewman also places three weights on the line to hold it onto the ocean floor, one at each end, and one in the middle. When all hooks are deployed, the line is cut from the spool and the high-flyer buoy is attached to mark the end of the line in the water.

deploying high-flyer

Deploying the high-flyer buoy after all 100 gangions and weights are attached.

The last member of the science team is at a computer station on deck and they are in charge of inputting data into the computer. Each time a buoy, weight, or gangion goes into the water, a specific button is pushed to mark the items place in the water. This is done so when a shark comes up on a numbered hook, NOAA scientists know exactly the latitude, longitude and depth of where that specific shark was caught. Scientists upload this important data immediately to NOAA servers for later use so they can assess average populations in specific areas, among many other data points.

Input

Each time a gangion, weight, or high-flyer buoy is deployed, its location is input in the computer.

The bait stays down on the ocean floor for about an hour before the boat returns to retrieve it. The retrieval process is similar to deploying the line except that it takes longer to bring it in, as there are now some fish and sharks attached to the hooks. If the hooks are empty, the number is taken off the line, and the gangion is placed back in the barrel until the next station. If there is a shark or fish on the line, it is pulled onto the deck and data is collected before the shark is safely placed back into the water. The first step is unhooking the fish, before it is measured. The shark is measured from the tip of the nose to various parts of the body to determine the size in those areas. The gender of the shark is also determined, as well as the maturity. Finally, the shark is weighed on a scale and most are tagged before being photographed and released. The process only takes about two minutes to safely ensure the shark survives. The data is recorded on a data log, and after the retrieval, the data is input into a database.

Removing Gangions

Gangions are taken off the long line, de-baited, de-numbered and put back in barrel.

 

Personal Log

Before coming on the Oregon II, I knew only about the fishing process on a larger scale from what I’d read about, or seen on television. I was slightly intimidated that without experience, I’d likely be slowing down the experienced team of professionals from their difficult job. As we headed out to sea, I found out it would take a few days before we reached our first station and that gave me time to get to know the crew, which was very valuable. There are two crews, each work 12 hours a day, so fishing was happening around the clock. I was able to listen to their advice and explanation of the techniques used in the long line process, and also some fantastic stories about their lives and families. Their patience with me and the other volunteers during those first few stations gave us time to get up to their speed, and from then out it was like clockwork. It was certainly hard to work outside all day, but the passion, skill, and humor of the crew made it quite fun work each day and night. It was impressive and amazing to see how this efficient process is used to help NOAA scientists and fishermen collect data from vast areas of the ocean for two weeks. I am proud to say I helped a great team to get information that can help us understand how to help populations of sharks and fish for long into the future.

Stephen removes shark

TAS 2018 Stephen Kade taking shark off gangion, ready to measure, weigh, and put back in ocean

Kathleen Gibson, Sailing Away, July 27, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Gibson
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 25 – August 8, 2015

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey
Geographic Area of the Cruise: Atlantic Ocean off the Florida and Carolina Coasts
Date: July 27, 2015
Coordinates:  25o   30.755 N
                       O79o   55.736W

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Wind speed (knots): 9
Sea Temp (deg C): 31.3
Air Temp (deg C):  31.2

View from the Bow - Gulf of Mexico

View from the bow – Gulf of Mexico

Just before we left Pascagoula last Saturday, we learned that the V-Sat system was not operational and that in all likelihood we wouldn’t have internet access during the trip.  So far this prediction has been accurate.  I’ll continue to write these blogs as we go and post them all after we get to port if it doesn’t get fixed.

In my first post I wrote a bit about the area we would be surveying. I’ve since learned that during this cruise we will only be working in the Atlantic Ocean. Another change is that our final destination will be Cape Canaveral, FL rather than Jacksonville, FL.

Motoring through the Florida Keys

Motoring through the Florida Keys

Since we aren’t doing any fishing in the Gulf, we are currently following a straight track from Pascagoula to the Florida Keys. We’ve been sailing for two days and are currently off the coast of Key Biscayne, FL.  There has been one rain event that went by quickly, and otherwise it has been fair weather. While land isn’t visible, there are a good number of recreational motorboats, so land must not be too far off.

 

Science and Technology

This cruise is the first of four legs of a long-term (longitudinal) study of the distribution and abundance of shark and red snapper populations. The study began in 1995 and the research area includes U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The Atlantic Ocean sampling stations on this first leg are positioned at various distances offshore from Miami, FL to Cape Hatteras, NC and at different depths. Later legs will complete the survey in the Gulf of Mexico.  While this type of study can be resource and labor intensive and also time consuming, a well-designed longitudinal study can provide valuable data that tracks trends and patterns over an extended period of time. As with any investigation, numerous potential variables must be controlled, including time of year sampling occurs, sampling equipment (line and hooks) and sampling locations.

We’ve prepared three barrels of gangions (50 hooks in each). When we start fishing we will bait the hooks with mackerel and hook them on the long line.

Kristin Hannan ( left) and science volunteers preparing gangions. These will be baited and attached to the main line.

Kristin Hannan ( left) and science volunteers preparing gangions.
These will be baited and attached to the main line.

The circular hooks are designed to minimize harm.

The circular hooks are designed to minimize harm.

NOAA Careers

A successful cruise requires a significant amount of preparation as well as committed participants. Those aboard include NOAA scientists, NOAA Corps Officers, an experienced deck crew, engineers, stewards, and science team volunteers. From the moment I arrived on board it has been apparent that everyone is fully invested in this project.  They’ve been willing to share their stories of how they made their way on to this cruise of the Oregon II;  I’ll share some of their stories with you in this and future blog entries.

Career Spotlight: Kristin Hannan – Field Party Chief, NOAA Shark Unit

As Field Party Chief, Kristin is responsible for all of the scientific work done during the cruise.  She is also the watch leader for the day shift.  While Kristin was fascinated with marine science at an early age, she followed some sage academic advice for her undergraduate program: “focus on being a scientist first, include rigorous coursework, and then do marine work.”  She graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry and she remains a loyal Hokie fan.

Kristin Hannan taking measurements

Kristin Hannan taking measurements

She has been involved in a number of challenging marine-related projects all around the United States and has been open to unusual opportunities when they arose. One such opportunity, over 10 years ago,  was to be a volunteer with NOAA Fisheries in Pascagoula, MS.  She joined the Shark Longline cruise as a volunteer one summer, and returned in subsequent summers to participate. Kristin eventually joined NOAA permanently as a Field Biologist with the Shark Unit, and is now the Chief Scientist/Field Party Chief for this cruise–the very same one she volunteered for some years ago.

In addition to her work with NOAA, Kristin is pursuing a Master’s Degree from the University of South Alabama, where she is studying chimeras and methods used to determine their age.

Kristin’s advice to students looking to work in Marine Sciences –or any field- is to:

  1. Be open to unusual opportunities
  2. Try to make a good impression every day
  3. Work hard

Personal Log

Flying Fish Photo Credit: NOAA

Flying Fish
Photo Credit: NOAA

We’re still sailing to the sampling area, so there is plenty of free time to meet others on board, read and walk around the deck.  This will definitely change when sampling begins. Today I went out to the bow and saw flying fish for the first time and dolphins were swimming off the bow.

The science team is made up of 4 NOAA scientists and 7 volunteers with a variety of experience. Our volunteers include 2 university professors, one graduate student, three undergraduate students, and one Teacher at Sea!  The group is split into two 12-hour shifts.  I’m on the day shift which begins at noon each day and ends at midnight.  It’s likely that we will begin fishing tomorrow morning, and the night crew has begun adjusting their sleep pattern to be prepared.  I’m going to have to work at sleeping in.

Survival Suit - Perfect Fit  Photo Credit: Lecia Salerno

Survival Suit – Perfect Fit  Photo Credit: Lecia Salerno

 

The Executive Officer (XO) LT Lecia Salerno, has graciously allowed me to share her quarters, which includes her office. The cabin is on an upper level so I definitely get rocked to sleep.

A fire drill and abandon-ship drill were called on the first full day at sea.  Lecia helped me get into my survival suit and, more importantly, out of it as well.

Questions of the day for my students:

What additional variables do you think should be considered and kept constant in this study?

What is a nautical mile and how many nautical miles is it from Pascagoula, MS, to Miami, FL?

How do chimeras differ from sharks?

Tomorrow we fish!

Tomorrow we fish!

Up next… Time to Fish.

 

Louise Todd, Setting the Line, September 19, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Louise Todd
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
September 13 – 29, 2013

Mission: Shark and Red Snapper Bottom Longline Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 19, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Barometric Pressure: 1017.17mb
Sea Temperature: 28.8˚C
Air Temperature: 27˚C
Wind speed: 18.05 knots

Science and Technology Log:

Those of you following our progress on the NOAA Ship Tracker might have noticed some interesting movements of the ship.  We had some rough weather that forced us to skip a station, and the current by the mouth of the Mississippi River also forced us to skip a station.  The safety of everyone on board comes first so if the seas are too rough or the weather is bad we will skip a scheduled station and move to the next one.  Now we are off the coast of Florida and hope we can get some good fishing done!

This survey is being done using longlines.  Longlines are exactly as their name describes, long stretches of line with lots of hooks on them.  The line we are using is 6,000 feet long, the length of one nautical mile.  From that long line, there are 100 shorter lines called gangions hanging down with hooks on the end.  Each gangion is 12 feet long.

Gangions

Gangions in the barrel

When we arrive at a sampling station, everyone on our shift helps to set the line.  In order to set the line, we have to bait each one of the hooks with mackerel.

Baited gangions

Baited gangions ready to go

Once the hooks are baited, we wait for the Officer of the Deck (OOD), driving the ship from the bridge, to let us know that we are in position at the station and ready to start setting the line.  The first item deployed is a high flyer to announce the position of our line to other boats and to help us keep track of our line.

High Flyers

High flyers ready to be deployed

This is a bottom longline survey so after the high flyer is deployed, the first weight is deployed to help pull the line to the bottom of the ocean just above the seabed.  After the first weight is deployed, it is time to put out the first 50 hooks.  This is typically a three person job.  One person slings the bait by pulling the gangion from the barrel and getting ready to pass it to the crew member.  Another person adds a number tag to the gangion so each hook has its own number.

Numbers for hooks

Number clips are attached to each gangion

A member of the deck crew attaches each gangion to the main line and sends it over the side into the water.  The gangions are placed 60 feet apart.  The crew members are able to space them out just by sight!  The bridge announces every tenth of a mile over the radio so they are able to double check themselves as they set the line.  Another weight is deployed after the first 50 hooks.  A final weight is placed after the last hook.  The end of the line is marked with another high flyer.  Once the line has been set, we scrub the gangion barrels and the deck.  The line stays in the water for one hour.

Once the line has soaked for one hour, the fun begins!  Haul back is definitely my favorite part!  Sometimes it can be disappointing, like last night when there was absolutely nothing on the line.  Other times we are kept busy trying to work up everything on the line.  When the line is set and brought back in, everything is kept track of on a computer.  The computer allows us to record the time and exact location that every part of the line was deployed or retrieved.  The touchscreen makes it easy to record the data on the computer.

Computer

Computer ready to document what is on each hook

Personal Log:

It is nice to be doing some fishing!  There have been some long distances in between our stations so my shift has not gotten the opportunity to set the line as much as we would like.  I’m hopeful that the weather holds out for us so we can get a few stations in on our shift today.  Being able to see these sharks up close has been amazing.  I am enjoying working with the people on my shift and learning from each one of them.  Before we haul back the line, I ask everyone what their guess is for number of fish on the line.  My number has been 45 the past few haul backs and I’ve been wrong every time!  Christine was exactly right on one of our last haul backs when she guessed two.  I know I’ll be right one of these stations.  It is hard to get pictures of what comes up on the line because we get so busy processing everything.  I’m going to try to get more pictures of our next stations.

The views out in the Gulf are gorgeous.  I never get tired of them!

Moon Rising

Can you see the moon?

Sunset over the Gulf

Sunset over the Gulf

Did You Know?

When we arrive at a sampling station, the officer on watch must be aware of other ships and rigs in the area.  At times the bridge watchstander will make the decision to adjust the location of our sampling station based on large ships or rigs in the area.

Rig and Ship

Rigs and other ships in the area of a sampling station can force us to move the station

Liz Harrington: Let’s Go Fishing! August 17, 2013

NOAA Teacher At Sea
Liz Harrington
 Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
August 10 – 25, 2013

Mission : Shark/Red Snapper Bottom Longline
Geographical area of cruise: Western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico
Date: Aug 17, 2013

Weather: current conditions from the bridge:
Partly cloudy, scattered showers and thunder storms
Lat. 27.19 °N  Lon. 84.38 °W
Temp. 92 °F ( 33.4° C)
Wind speed   10-15 knots
Barometer  30.1 in  (1015 mb)
Visibility  10 mi
Sea temp  83 ° F   (28.8  ° C)

Science and Technology Log

We have arrived at the survey sites, the fishing has begun and I’m having the time of my life! The process is a collaborative effort between the science team and the crew of the ship.  In upcoming blogs I’ll focus on all the different people on board the ship and their roles, but I’d like to first tell you about the fishing from my perspective as part of the science team. The science team consists of four scientists and seven volunteers. We are divided into day shift (noon to midnight) and night shift (midnight to noon). I am assigned to the day shift.

I was told that about a mile of line with 100 hooks would be let out and weighted to stay close to the bottom.  I was interested to see how they could let the line out and haul it back in again without all those hooks getting tangled. Well, I learned that the hooks are removable.  The hooks are attached to one end of a 12 foot section of line. The other end holds a snap. This set up is called a gangion.  The gangions are snapped onto the longline as it is let out and taken off the line as it is reeled in.  They are stored in a very orderly way to avoid tangles, although an occasional tangle does occur.  As the ship is approaching a designated site we prepare for setting the line. This is done from the rear of the ship, called the stern.

gangion

Parts of a gangion

baited gangions

Gangions baited and ready to set

We bait the hooks and decide on job assignments.  The jobs that need to be done while setting the line are “Data” (manning the computer to keep a count of the gangions that are put on the line); “High Flyer” (throwing out the buoys that will mark the beginning and end of the line); “Slinger” (throwing the baited hook over the edge of the ship and holding the other end of the gangion to receive a numbered tag); and “Numbers” (snapping numbered tags on to the gangions).  The weather conditions and the speed of the current must be checked before the final approval is given to set the line.  When the signal is given our team gets to work.

high flyer

Skilled fisherman Chuck Godwin and I get ready to put out the high flyer

High Flyers mark each end of the longline

High Flyers mark each end of the longline

slinging

Lead scientist for this trip, Kristin Hannan, slinging while we set out the line. The bait is Atlantic Mackerel.

After the line is set and the work station is cleaned up (that bait can get a little messy!), a CTD is deployed to gather data on the water – Conductivity (a measure of salinity), Temperature and Depth. The CTD also measures the dissolved oxygen in the water – remember that fish breathe by absorbing oxygen from the water as it runs over their gills.

An hour after the last high flyer is set, the line is hauled in. This is done from the bow (the front deck of the ship). During this part of the process I am full of anticipation as we wait to see what each hook holds. It might be a light catch with a couple of fish or it might be a very busy catch.  When the crew yells “fish on”, the action begins. Anything that is caught is brought on board and data is collected (more on this later). If it is too big to be pulled in, then it is lifted into a cradle and worked on along the side of the ship. The crew will determine if cradling is needed and will shout out “hard hats”, as we all need to be wearing hard hats when the crane is being used to move the cradle. In our first two days of fishing, the day shift has cradled five sharks. It is so exciting to be next to such a big, beautiful creature.

The final step to the fishing process is clean up. Our gear is put away, the deck is hosed down (using salt water, as fresh water is in precious on a ship), numbers are checked for proper order and damaged gangions are repaired. If there were fish caught that require dissection, this would be done now as well. In the meantime, Oregon II steams on to the next survey site.  So, you can see that the ship is a busy place 24 hours a day.

repairing or replacing worn gangions

Members of the day shift science team repair gangions after a recent haul. Foreground- Micayla and Cliff, volunteers. Background – Amy Schmidt, scientist.

Personal Log

I am having so much fun on the Oregon II. The work is really interesting and the people have been fantastic.  Not only has everyone on board been very friendly and helpful, but they have really made me feel like a member of the team. Right from the start we were trained for the various jobs and expected to do them, with lots of help and encouragement always available. I initially thought I’d be more of an observer, but that is not the case at all.  All of the volunteers are actively involved in every aspect of the fishing routine.

sharpnose shark

Here I am taking measurements on a Sharpnose Shark

I find it fascinating that people from all over the country have come together to cross paths here aboard a ship in the Gulf of Mexico. In future blogs I’d like to highlight some of their stories, but for now there is work to be done (although I’m not to the point where I can call this work. It’s way too much fun!)

New Terms

Shark Burn – the abrasion received when a wiggling shark rubs against your skin.

Water Haul – nothing at all is caught during a set.

night shark

Daniel, volunteer, prepares to release a Night Shark

removing hook

Removing a hook from a cradled Sandbar shark

CTD

Micayla and Cliff stabilize the CTD during deployment.

data collection

Micayla logs hook numbers as line is let out.

Steven Frantz: Training at Sea, July 30, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Steven Frantz
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 27 – August 8, 2012

Mission: Longline Shark Tagging Survey
Geographic area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic off the east coast of  Florida
Date: July 29, 2012

 

TRAINING AT SEA

In my last blog I mentioned we would be at sea three days to get to where we will begin the longline survey. I thought I would take a little time to share some of the training before we ever start a longline survey. Everybody pitches in to make sure we have a safe, successful journey.

First we learned the different parts to the longline. The line starts with a high-flier buoy and a weight. Gangions (also known as a branch line or leader) are snapped to the line. Another weight is placed midway, with more gangions, then finally another high-flier buoy at the end. There are 100 gangions used for the NFMS Bottom Longline Survey. While there are several variations when using longline gear, the NFMS Bottom Longline Survey has used this standardized set-up in order to minimize variables.  By using the same gear year after year they are able to compare fish catch data, minimizing any bias attributed to changing gear that may fish differently.

This just isn’t your average fishing trip! The longline itself is one nautical mile long! How long is this on land? In addition, each end is also calculated into the total length. This will vary depending on how deep the ocean floor is where we are fishing. The longline is left for one hour then retrieved.

Longline Diagram

Longline Diagram, courtesy Dr. Trey Driggers

Before we begin, everything needs to be ready and in place. Each gangion has to be placed in a barrel so they do not get tangled taking them out. A tangled bunch of gangions is a big problem. First, the AK snap of the gangion goes into the bucket. Next, let the line go into the bucket. Finally, place the hook in the notch in the bucket, making sure it points in toward the bucket. We certainly do not want anyone passing by caught by a hook.

Parts

From top to bottom: clips, hooks, AK snaps 

Hooks on Bucket

How to place gangions in the bucket

Numbered Tags

Numbered Tags

There are many data scientists use in their research. We need to make sure we collect accurate data; consistent with the 18 years this study has been going on. First we learned how to measure the length (in millimeters) of a shark. We used an Atlantic Mackerel as a measurement example. There are three length measurements to be taken: Total Length (from tip or nose to tip of tail), Fork Length (from tip of nose to notch in tail), and Standard Length (from tip of nose to where body ends and tail begins). The shark is placed on a two meter long measuring board. If the shark is longer than two meters, a measuring tape is used to measure length. The three lengths are recorded.

measuring board

Measuring Board

In addition to the three length measurements, we must also identify the species of shark, measure weight, condition when caught, sex, maturity (for males), hook number, and any tag information if the shark had been tagged before. For some species, if the shark isn’t tagged, we will tag it. We also need to record which vessel we are on, which survey, which station, and the date. Data is also being collected on many aspects of the water. Other samples may be taken that will determine the age of the shark (vertebrae).

Data Sheet

Data Sheet

The last thing we learned was how to bait a hook. These hooks are big! Atlantic Mackerel are used for bait. We must be careful to double hook the bait or it will fall off.

Cutting Bait

Cutting Bait

Baited Hooks

Baited Hooks

There you have it. Tomorrow I will begin working the longline actually fishing for sharks!

After three days in the Gulf of Mexico we see land! We passed near enough to be able to see the coastline of Miami. It all seems so peaceful here aboard the Oregon II when looking out into what I know is the hustle and bustle of Miami, Florida.

Miami

Miami

Jennifer Goldner: Shark Week- All day, every day!, August 16, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Goldner
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
(NOAA Ship Tracker)
August 11 — August 24, 2011

Mission: Shark Longline Survey
Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico
Date: August 16, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 25.15 N
Longitude: 82.48 W
Wind Speed: 2.09 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 29.20 C
Air Temperature: 30.10 C
Relative Humidity: 69.00%

Science and Technology Log

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been on this trip it is that both science and technology are crucial for doing a shark survey. Keep in mind NOAA Ship Oregon II’s mission is not to fish for sharks, rather it is to survey them. In other words, it is to find out how the sharks are doing and where they like to hang out in the ocean. Thus, the ship doesn’t ONLY go to the “shark hot spots” so to speak. Instead, there are various locations the ship stops at to perform a survey. These are called stations. The stations vary greatly in depth, temperature, dissolved oxygen, etc. It would be similar to marketers taking a survey to see what restaurants people prefer.

With that being said, there is a certain science to performing a survey of the sharks. Here is how it is done. There is much preparation before leaving port to do a survey. NOAA Ship Oregon II cannot leave port without Atlantic mackerel, and lots of it. This is the bait that is used to catch the sharks. The hook of choice is a circle hook. The fishing line is monofilament and extremely strong. These are the basic items needed, but there are numerous other tools needed such as the cradle for larger sharks, tagging tools, vials for samples, and the list goes on. Suffice it to say, once the ship leaves from port, everything has to be on board in order to have a productive survey.

Anyone who fishes knows there are numerous ways to catch a fish. So how do you catch a shark? If you’ve ever seen the movie, “The Perfect Storm,” then you have a good idea. The method used is called longlining. As the name claims, this method makes use of a long line. The line must first be prepared. In order to do this the circle hooks are baited with Atlantic mackerel. There are 100 hooks in total to put on the line. The hooks are part of a unit called a gangion. A gangion consists of a leader, a monofilament line, and a circle hook. These are placed in a barrel. There are 50 gangions with bait per barrel, for a total of 2 barrels per fishing set.

Mark, Chief Scientist, and Adam, Scientist, preparing Atlantic Mackeral for the next station

Mark, Chief Scientist, and Adam, Scientist, preparing Atlantic mackerel for the next station

Preparing the bait

Preparing the bait

Hooks are baited and ready to go!

Hooks are baited and ready to go!

Gangion bucket- Notice when the line is set the bait is given out in a clockwise direction.  When it is hauled back in, it is put in a counterclockwise direction.

Gangion bucket- Notice when the line is set the bait is given out in a clockwise direction. When it is hauled back in, it is put in a counterclockwise direction.

Incidentally, there are 2 shifts: day shift (noon until midnight) and night shift (midnight until noon). I am on the day shift. Thus there are stations being worked 24 hours a day. The bridge will announce when we are coming on another station. Also, it is posted on the dry lab door so we can all be prepared for the next station. Knowing this, the shift gets the mackerel ready by thawing it out, then cutting it up to bait the
hooks.

Once the ship is to the station, everyone gets in their places, and the OOD (Officer of the Deck) disconnects the engine. At this point the drift test begins. This takes into account both the wind and the current to determine what direction to set the line. If there is too much current, determined by the Field Party Chief and the OOD, the station is either canceled or moved closer to shore. Next the ship slowly moves forward (4 knots) and the line is fed from the ship. The line, which is 1 nautical mile, is let out at the stern (back) of the ship. The fishermen are responsible for feeding it through blocks (pulley) system. The 1st thing on the line is a high flyer. This is an orange flotation device put at the end of the line.

High flyer

High flyer

The next thing put on the line is a weight. This sinks the line to the bottom. At this point, the first of 50 baited gangions are handed to the fishermen to clip to the line, each being evenly distributed. It should be noted that each gangion has a hook number so that an accurate record can be kept. The hook numbers are taken off a line and clipped on the gangion as the bait is being fed over the deck to the fisherman. After the 50th gangion, another weight is put on the line, followed by 50 more gangions, another weight, and lastly, a high flyer. While all of this is going on, one person on the team records data on the computer which is instantly uploaded with such things as the latitude and longitude and real time of when each hook is deployed.

Longline Diagram, courtesy of Dr. Trey Driggers

Longline Diagram, courtesy of Dr. Trey Driggers

100 hook number tags

100 hook number tags

Scientists getting the gangion ready to give to Jeff, Chief Boatswain

Scientists getting the gangion ready to give to Jeff, Chief Boatswain

The night shift crew preparing the bait

The night shift crew preparing the bait

Greg, Fisherman, clipping a gangion on the line

Greg, Fisherman, clipping a gangion on the line

Chief Scientist, Mark Grace, records data

Chief Scientist, Mark Grace, records data

The longline is allowed to soak for 1 hour before it is brought back on board on the starboard (right) side of the well-deck, just aft of the bow (front). During this time the deck and buckets are cleaned up and the CTD is deployed (Conductivity Temperature Depth).

The CTD takes many measurements including temperature, salinity, turbidity, chlorophyll, depth, and dissolved oxygen. These measurements give the scientists valuable information for the habitats of the sharks. For example, any level of dissolved oxygen 2.0 mg/liter or lower is considered apoxic and causes physiological stress on an animal. Most animals live in an area between 2-7 mg/liter of dissolved oxygen. A reading of 7 would only be found in very cold water such as the Arctic.

CTD

CTD

CTD Screen

CTD Screen

Water color test

Water color test

In addition to the CTD readings, the scientists report the water color along with the current weather conditions.

After the line has soaked, the team meets at the bow to haul in the line. The fishermen unclip the gangions from the line and hand it off to a scientist who records the hook number and the condition of the bait. If a fish is caught, it is brought aboard and morphometric (total length, fork length, sex, and weight) data is collected.

Travis, Scientist, taking measurements

Travis, Scientist, taking measurements

In the event a larger fish is caught, it is placed in the cradle.What are the benefits of doing a longline survey? It gives the scientists presence/absence data from looking at what was caught and was not caught. It gets samples from the Gulf to compare with other areas.

Personal Log

Mark, Chief Scientist, taking measurements

Mark, Chief Scientist, taking measurements

One word: WOW! Let me say it backwards: WOW!!! This week is DEFINITELY making my “Top Ten Life Experiences” list!! Shark Week has absolutely nothing on this NOAA crew! It is evident they eat, sleep, and live sharks and other fish all year long. NOAA Ship Oregon II needs to have a camera follow them for a reality show called “Shark Year.” If they aren’t catching it, they are studying about it. I am amazed at the depth of knowledge of the entire crew, including each and every member on board, of the ocean. What impresses me even more is their enthusiasm and patience in teaching this teacher how it all works.

Now for your questions. . .

One of you asked about shark finning. According to the scientists and fishermen on board it is not a big problem off the coast of the United States like it is in Asia. Here it is regulated. In fact, when commercial fishermen bring in their sharks, the fins have to be attached, so that cuts down on this practice.

Another question that came up was in regards to tagging. On this ship the scientists mainly use passive tagging techniques. This requires the fish to be recaptured after it has been tagged. The tag has a phone number to call when the shark is caught as well as an identification number. Another method of tagging is active tagging, for instance satellite tags. Satellite tags are attached to animals to study migration. These are very expensive, ranging from $3,000-$5,000. They are set to pop off the animal at a predetermined time and date and transmit data to a satellite in order to plot the shark’s course. Many shark species are migratory so this type of tag is beneficial to see their migration patterns.

Also, a question was asked about how deep it needs to be to safely navigate. According to Cap, the draft for the ship is 15 feet. The ship can safely sail in 30 feet of water. That’s unbelievable for a ship of this size, huh? It makes Orgeon II a great vessel to do the shallow water surveys. Most other ships can’t go that shallow.

By the way, great job class on last blog’s poll! The correct answer was 70! You all aced the quiz!

My son, Hayden on his 1st day of 6th grade

My son, Hayden on his 1st day of 6th grade

I also have to share a picture of my son, Hayden. His 1st day of school was Monday. I can’t believe he is already in 6th grade! Hayden is a shark enthusiast and is following my blog at home with my parents. Cap has already told me he is welcome on the ship. Someday he can come study sharks, just like his Mom!

Shark Gallery Pictures

The next blog will be a lesson on specific sharks, but for now, enjoy the pictures!!

Me with a dogfish shark

Me with a smooth dogfish

Adam, Scientist, getting ready to measure a tiger shark

Adam, Scientist, getting ready to measure a tiger shark

Drew, Scientist, measuring a blacknose shark

Drew, Scientist, measuring a blacknose shark

Me touching a sandbar shark

Me touching a nurse shark