Over the past few days, we’ve fished a mix of station depths, so I’ve gotten to see a number of new species as we’ve moved out into deeper waters.
At a C station, which is a station at depths between 183 and 366 meters, we caught a Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus). This catch was so unexpected that a number of crew members ventured out to the well deck to snap a picture. She was a beautiful juvenile between 1-2 years old.
I also saw my first kingsnake eel, a long eel with a set of very sharp teeth. On a later station, we caught a juvenile that we were able to bring on deck and examine. We also caught a Warsaw grouper (Hyporthodus nigritus), which had parasites on its gills and in its fins. Gregg Lawrence, a member of the night shift on loan from Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Fisheries unit, and I removed the otoliths and took samples of the parasites.
We had one catch that brought in 20 Red Snappers. Red Snappers are brought on deck, and a number of samples are taken from each one of them for ongoing assessment of the Red Snapper population. In addition to the otoliths, which allow the scientists to determine the age of the fish, we also take samples of the gonads, the muscle, the fins, and the stomach. These allow the scientists to perform reproductive and genetic tests and determine what the snappers ate. While 4 members of the science team onboard collected samples, Caroline Collatos, the volunteer on the day shift, and I insured that the samples were properly packaged and tagged. Everyone working together allowed the process to run smoothly.
On the latest B station, which was about 110 meters deep, we caught a number of species, some of which I had not gotten to see yet. In addition to Gulf smoothound sharks (Mustelus sinusmexicanus), we caught a Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) and a Sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus) that we had to cradle due to their size. The Sandbar shark was a bit feisty, but I got the chance to tag her before we released her.
We work in the rain. Thankfully, they had some extra rain gear for me to put on, so that I would not get drenched while we were setting the line. For the most part, the rainstorms have been sprinkles, but we did have one downpour while we were going toward a station.
Between setting lines, I have been busy checking up on my studenats’ work back in Memphis. One of the great things about having a one-to-one school is that the students are able to do their work on Microsoft Teams and turn it in for me to grade it thousands of miles away. I have loved seeing their how they are doing, and answering questions while they are working, because I know that they are learning about the cell cycle while I am out at sea learning about sharks.
One of the things that has really surprised me over the past week is how much my hands hurt. It was unexpected, but it makes sense, given how much of the work requires good grip strength. From insuring that the sharks are handled properly to clipping numbers on the gangions to removing circle hooks from fish on the lines, much of the work on the science team requires much more thumb strength than I had thought about. I know my students have commented that their hands hurt after taking notes in my class, so I thought they would get a kick out of the fact that the work on the ship has made my hands hurt.
Did You Know?
Sharks are able to sense electrical fields generated by their prey through a network of sensory organs known as ampullae of Lorenzini. These special pores are filled with a conductive jelly composed primarily of proteins, which send the signals to nerve fibers at the base of the pore.
Quote of the Day
Remove the predators, and the whole ecosystem begins to crash like a house of cards. As the sharks disappear, the predator prey balance dramatically shifts, and the health of our oceans declines.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kathleen Gibson Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II July 25 – August 8, 2015
Mission: Shark Longline Survey Geographic Area of the Cruise: Atlantic Ocean off the Florida and Carolina Coast Date: Aug 4, 2015
Coordinates: LAT 3323.870N
LONG 07736.658 W
Weather Data from the Bridge: Wind speed (knots): 28
Sea Temp (deg C): 29.2
Air Temp (deg C): 24.2
Early this morning the night shift caught and cradled a great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran). This is a first for this cruise leg. I’m sure that just saying “Hammerhead” conjures an image of a shark with an unusual head projection (cephalofoil), but did you know that there are at least 8 distinct Hammerhead species? Thus far in the cruise we have caught 4 scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini), one of which I was fortunate to tag.
Science and Technology Log
All eight species of hammerhead sharks have cephalofoils with differences noted in shape, size, and eye placement, to name a few. Research indicates that this structure acts as a hydrofoil or rudder, increasing the shark’s agility. In addition, the structure contains a high concentration of specialized electro sensory organs (Ampullae of Lorenzini) that help the shark detect electric signals of other organisms nearby. The eye placement at each end of the cephalofoil allows hammerhead sharks to have essentially a panoramic view with only a slight movement of their head – quite handy when hunting or avoiding other predators.
Great hammerheadsharks are highly migratory. They are found worldwide in tropical latitudes, and at various depths. There are no geographically Distinct Population Segments (DPS) identified. The great hammerhead, as its name implies, is the largest of the group and average size estimates of mature individuals varies between 10-14 ft in length with a weight approximately 500 lb.; the largest recorded was 20 ft in length. The one we caught was ll ft. in length.
As with most shark species, the numbers declined rapidly between 1975 and 1995 due to the fin fishing industry and focused sport fishing often fueled by fear and misinformation. One has to wonder what the average length was before that time.
Scalloped Hammerhead sharks are the most common hammerhead species. Their habitat overlaps that of the great hammerhead, though they are more often found in slightly shallower waters. In contrast to the great hammerhead, scalloped hammerheads are only semi-migratory, and scientists have identified Distinct Population Segments around the world. This is important information when evaluating population size and determining which groups, if any, need regulatory protection.
The average life expectancy for both species is approximately 30 years. Males tend to become sexually mature before females, at smaller weights; females mature between 7-10 years (sources vary). In my last log I discussed shark reproduction – Oviparous vs. Viviparous. (egg laying vs. live birth). All hammerheads are viviparous placental sharks but reproductive patterns do differ. Great hammerheads bear young every two years, typically having 20-40 pups. A great hammerhead recently caught by a fisherman in Florida was found to be pregnant with 33 pups. Scalloped have slightly fewer pups in each brood, but can reproduce more frequently.
Setting and retrieving the Longline requires coordination between Deck Operations and the Bridge. Up until now I’ve highlighted those on deck. Let’s learn a bit about two NOAA officers on the Bridge.
The NOAA Corps is one of the 7 Uniformed Services of the United States and all members are officers. The Corps’ charge is to support the scientific mission of NOAA, operating and navigating NOAA ships and airplanes. Applicants for the Corps must have earned Bachelor’s degree and many have graduate degrees. A science degree is not required but a significant number of science units must have been completed. It’s not unusual for Corps recruits to have done post-baccalaureate studies to complete the required science coursework. New recruits go through Basic Officer’s Training at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.
Lt. Lecia Salerno – Executive Officer (XO) – NOAA
Lt. Lecia Salerno at the helm or the Oregon II during Longline retrieval.
Lt. Salerno is a 10-year veteran of the NOAA Corps and has significant experience with ship operations. She was recently assigned to the Oregon II as the XO. This is Lecia’s first assignment as an XO and she reports directly to Captain Dave Nelson. In addition to her Bridge responsibilities, she manages personnel issues, ship accounts and expenditures. During these first few weeks on her new ship, Lt. Salerno is on watch for split shifts – day and night – and is quickly becoming familiar with the nuances of the Oregon II. This ship is the oldest (and much loved) ship in NOAA’s fleet, having been built in 1964, which can make it a challenge to pilot. It’s no small task to maneuver a 170-foot vessel up to a small highflyer and a float, and continue moving the ship along the Longline throughout retrieval.
Lecia has a strong academic background in science and in the liberal arts and initially considered joining another branch of the military after college. Her assignments with NOAA incorporate her varied interests and expertise, which she feels makes her job that much more rewarding.
Laura has always had a love for the ocean, but did not initially look in that direction for a career. She first earned a degree in International Business from James Madison University. Her interest in marine life took her back to the sea and she spent a number of years as a scuba diving instructor in the U.S. and Australia. Laura returned to the U.S. to take additional biology coursework. During that time she more fully investigated the NOAA Corps, applied and was accepted.
Laura has been on the Oregon II for 1.5 years and loves her work. When she is on shift she independently handles the ship during all operations and also acts as Navigator. What she loves about the Corps is that the work merges science and technology, and there are many opportunities for her to grow professionally. In December Laura will be assigned to a shore duty unit that is developing Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV).
It’s amazing to think that just over a week ago I held my first live shark. We caught over 30 sharks at our first station and our inexperience showed. At first even the small ones looked like all teeth and tail, and those teeth are not only sharp but carry some pretty nasty bacteria. It took all of us (new volunteers) forever to get the hooks out quickly without causing significant trauma to the shark–or ourselves. A tail smack from this small-but-mighty tiger shark pictured below left me with a wedge-shaped bruise for a week!
Since then we have caught hundreds of sharks. We’ve caught so many Atlantic Sharpnose that on occasion it seems mundane. Then I catch myself and realize how amazing it is to be doing what I’m doing– holding a wild animal in my hands, freeing it from the circle hook (finally!), looking at the detailed pattern of its skin, and feeling it’s rough texture, measuring it and releasing it back into the sea.
I’m pleased to be able to say that my day shift team has become much more confident and efficient. Our mid-day haul yesterday numbered over 40 sharks, including a few large sharks that were cradled, and it went really smoothly.
At this point I’ve had a chance to work at most of the volunteer stations including baiting hooks, throwing off the high-flyer marker, numbering, gangions, throwing bait, data entry, tagging shark, removing hooks, and measuring/ weighing. A highlight of last night was getting to throw out the hook to pull in the high-flyer marker at the start of retrieval. I’m not known for having the best throwing arm but it all worked out!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kathleen Gibson Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II July 25-August 8, 2015
Mission: Shark Longline Survey Geographic Area of the Cruise: Atlantic Ocean off the Florida and Carolina Coast Date: July 29, 2015 Coordinates: LAT 2933.3326N LONG 8029.065W
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Wind speed (knots): 9.2
Sea Temp (deg C): 29.6
Air Temp (deg C): 28.7
Yesterday was the first full day of sampling. We were off the coast of Miami, FL and it was relatively shallow. I’m not sure how many sharks I expected to see on my first day, but certainly not the 80 + that we did catch!
Science and Technology Log – A, B, C’s of Fishing for Sharks
Kristin Hannan preselected our stations following a random stratified approach. Sampling stations have A, B, or C designations, depending on the depth (A is more shallow than B or C). The night crew went on duty at midnight and completed one station yesterday morning. We completed three stations during our shift yesterday and three more today.
The bridge lets us know when we’re 30 minutes from our station, and we begin preparations. We bait the hooks with mackerel 20 minutes ahead of time.
When we get to the station, the longline is fed out from the stern of the ship and extends one mile. A
marker, called a high flyer, is attached to the beginning of the line. One hundred baited gangions are attached to the line at intervals after which another high-flyer marks the end of the line. The ship then returns to the starting point, the line is hauled in and the fun begins. If there is a shark on the line, the deck crew fisherman calls out “Shark On!” That’s the signal for someone from the science group to step up and take the shark, remove the hook and collect data.
The following data collected is collected for all sharks:
Total Length: Nose to end of tail when extended manually
Tag numbers and tissue sample collection is also noted if applicable.
Early morning haul back by the night shift. Video taken from the highest point on the ship.
Most of the sharks caught were small enough to bring up and hand to the science team. We use a wooden measuring board to determine lengths. Those that were a bit larger were brought up on deck by the fishermen and they required multiple handlers to collect data.
Very large sharks had to be measured with the help of a cradle and hoist. The cradle is lowered to water level and large sharks are coaxed onto the cradle using the hook and line they are still attached to. A hoist brings them to deck height for assessment. Deck Operations Crew manages all shark retrieval and determines when is safe for us to proceed.
Most of the sharks that we’ve caught have been Atlantic Sharpnose. This shark is relatively small (adults average 0.85 M) and are found in shallow Atlantic coastal waters from New Brunswick down into the Gulf of Mexico, and even off the coast of Brazil. They are known by at least 8 common names in different regions. My Biology students would recognize this as a good example of why it’s important to use agreed-upon scientific names for scientific research. The scientific name for this species is Rhizoprionodon terraenova. It has a long snout (longer than the width of the head) and most adults have a few white spots on a gray body.
Sharpnose mature relatively quickly and can begin producing offspring within two years; also, they can have up to 5-7 pups at once. These are major factors contributing to the abundance of this species. In comparison, larger sharks may take up to 15 years to reach maturity and typically have fewer offspring in each brood.
Our catch also included one Blacknose (Carcharhinus acronotus) and multiple Scalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), Nurse (Ginglymostoma cirratum) and Spinner sharks (Carcharhinus brevipinna).
Larger specimens were brought to deck height using a cradle, for weight, size, and sex determination, and were lowered back into the water after being measured and tagged.
If your interests tend toward science mixed with heavy machinery, skilled fishing, robotics or electronics, perhaps one of the following careers is for you.
Tim Martin: Chief Boatswain
As the Chief Boatswain, Tim Martin is responsible of all activities that happen on deck and he maintains constant communication with the bridge during all operations. Tim came to NOAA fisheries with a wealth of experience gained while serving in the U.S. Navy and later as a commercial fisherman in the Pacific Northwest. He was initially classified as a “Skilled Fisherman” with NOAA and has worked his way up to Chief Boatswain.
He and his group set and retrieve the longline. They also run all of the heavy deck equipment, such as the cranes that are used to position the shark cradle for large sharks and the CTD (water Sampling device). The Chief Boatswain is also responsible for training new crewmembers and maintaining ship supplies. In addition, Tim has earned Dive Master Certification through the NOAA Diving School, considered to be the best civilian diving school in the US.
When asked what keeps him going, Tim is very clear that he believes the work that NOAA Fisheries does is very important, and he is proud to be able to use his expertise to support NOAA’s efforts. This satisfaction somewhat tempers the challenges of the job which include being at sea for at least 6 months of the year, and constantly being in a training flux. Tim feels a strong bond with his crew and there is a clear sense of mutual trust and respect among them.
Ken Wilkinson: Electronic Technician (Supreme), NOAA Fisheries Engineering Unit
Ken has been with the Engineering Unit of NOAA Fisheries for 26 years. The mission of his Unit is to
support NOAA Fishery research by developing innovative technology. Ken always wanted to work on the water and he initially studied Marine Biology in college, but he migrated toward electronics. His work allows him to combine two great interests. His work takes him to sea 50-80 days each year.
A major focus of the electronics unit is to support the Reef Fish program. Trawling nets and longline apparatus will damage reef systems. In order to assess reef fish populations in a non-invasive way, Ken and his group work a number of Remotely Operated Vehicles that capture still and moving images that can be used later to determine abundance and species diversity. Ken’s unit has also developed a device called an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). This programmable instrument scans the sea floor using lasers and data collected is used to develop more accurate sea floor maps.
New device: Kennenator 5000 Dual Laser
Ken is on board the Oregon II testing his new device that can be used to assess the size of large sharks without bringing them to deck height. Ken’s device has two lasers set at a fixed distance from one another. The beams are directed toward the shark while it remains at the surface of the water. Various measurements can be extrapolated from the laser measurement. Large sharks caught on the longline survey are typically brought to the surface in the cradle for assessment. Cradle use is preferred as it allows tagging and tissue sample collection and sex determination. However, there are situations when this is not possible such as when poor weather conditions develop which limit sling operations, and some small vessels are not equipped with sling equipment.
The fast pace of the haul back at early stations was jarring. I stepped up when “Shark On” was called and a writhing Sharpnose was thrust into my hands. The first task is to get the hook out of the shark’smouth and this is no small feat. The circle hook is designed is to reduce the chance that the shark will swallow the hook or get hurt by it, but getting these hooks out of the mouth without hurting the shark requires technique. There will be plenty of opportunities to get the hang of in the next week.
A highlight of this first day was getting up close to a 2 meter long Scalloped Hammerhead brought to the surface in the cradle. I was able to feel its head, observe its eyes, and place an identification tag near its dorsal fin before it was lowered back into the water.
The Atlantic Sharpnose has been the most abundant shark on our survey and will continue to be abundant for the rest of the cruise, even in the Gulf of Mexico. It is in fact one of the species that is on the Least Concern list in terms of its vulnerability. It is often a victim of by-catch and makes up 1/3 of the commercial landings of sharks in the United States. But being capable of producing offspring in abundance, the Sharpnose remains a steady species with moderate population growths. As indicated by its name the Atlantic Sharpnose is found all along the U.S. Atlantic coast and even as far as New Brunswick, Canada. When the Oregon II makes its way back into the Gulf of Mexico, it will likely continue to make an appearance on deck.
The Blacknose Shark shares a similar body with the Sharpnose, but is marked by a (drumroll please) black mark on its nose. Unfortunately, the Blacknose doesn’t share its abundance with the Sharpnose. The Blacknose is listed as Near Threatened due to its high mortality rates in shrimp trawl nets. The Blacknose is suffering a decline in its population. The Oregon II has only seen 5-6 Blacknose during this leg of the survey.
The Nurse Shark, the first big shark we cradled, is characterized by sedentary and relatively docile behavior. They are still relatively mysterious in their migratory behavior and the gene flow between populations. Recently, it has been shown in population decline in certain areas perhaps due to its vulnerability to catch, but also perhaps because of habitat alteration.
The Scalloped Hammerhead has been my favorite so far. A friend of mine characterized it as the hipster of the shark world. There is something truly magnificent about those wide-set eyes. Unfortunately, the Scalloped Hammerhead is Endangered. The Scalloped Hammerhead can be found in coastal temperate waters all around the world. In each of these regions, it is threatened by capture, mostly as by-catch in fishing gear, gillnets, and longlines. Hammerhead shark fins are also more valuable than other species because of their high fin count. The species is in decline.
The Bull Shark is a unique shark species because it can survive in freshwater for extended periods of time. This ability has caused it to be categorized as Near Threatened because it often gets caught in fisheries, but it is not a target species the way others are. Here’s what Kristin Hannan had to say: “Bull sharks’ ability to tolerate greater salinity extremes means that it is likely to be in more productive areas like at the input of rivers. The rivers which dump high levels of nutrients into the system spur on production, high nutrients means more phytoplankton, more phytoplankton means more small critters eating and so on up. These areas also mean hot spots for fishing activities as productivity means more fish, more fish means more predators, more interaction with gear, more possibilities for shark mortality.”
The Sandbar Shark, which we caught in abundance one night, is a widespread species in warm temperate waters. Studies have found that it is a long-lived species, but it does not reproduce quickly so it has become Vulnerable due to overfishing. The species is currently in decline. The Sandbar is considered valuable because of their fins, which are large.
The Tiger Shark is commonly found world wide in tropical and warm coastal waters. Aside from the Sandbar, it is the largest shark we have caught the most of. Fortunately, it is considered a fast-growing species with the ability to reproduce abundantly. It is not considered at a high risk for extinction, but the desire for fins makes the risk of further population decline a distinct possibility.
We have only caught 1 Night Shark during our survey. It is a Vulnerable species. It is prized mostly for its fins and meats and is caught in abundance off the coast of Brazil. Studies have shown that most of the Night Sharks landed were below 50% maturity, which is 8 years for males and 10 years for females. In the United States, the Night Shark is listed as a prohibited species.
When talking to Kristin about these sharks, she shared this about their reproduction, “All sharks are considered K-selected species like humans; we are late to mature, grow slowly and reproduce relatively few young comparatively to say a bony fish that might produce thousands of babies in its lifetime (s-selected). So when we talk about a tiger [shark] vs. a sandbar [shark] being more or less productive, it is definitely in relation to each other and not all fish. A tiger [shark] does produce more young than some other species but way less than the red grouper he goes after for dinner. This is why all sharks are so sensitive to fishing pressures; they have a considerably longer bounce back time.”
It’s hard to believe that over a week has passed, but given how much we have seen and done, it makes sense.
As I get more and more comfortable handling sharks and working on the boat, I have noticed a few things. My sister-in-law Elizabeth noticed a few years ago that my family has a love for responding to each other (and often friends and acquaintances) with movie quotes. The most commonly quoted movies in our family include The Big Lebowski, The Princess Bride,Blues Brothers, To Kill A Mockingbird, and many more. I am no exception to this family trend.
So while we’re all eagerly awaiting the call that a shark is on the hook, it occurred to me that this movie-quoting affliction had not escaped this trip. When a fish or shark is caught on one of our hooks, the fishermen call out “Fish on” to notify those of us handling to come over and retrieve the animal. I realized that this was no common call in my head, though. Each time I hear the “Fish on” I hear it more in the call of “Game Ooon” from Wayne’s World. I suppose that’s a hazard of anyone growing up in the 90s. What proves I am truly a Karre though is that when I’m talking to the shark I’m handling, asking and sometimes begging it to be still so I can remove the hook quickly and reduce its harm and pain, in my head the shark is responding “Oh I’m cooperating with you” in the voice of William H. Macy from the movie Fargo.
Did You Know?
There are over 6000 known coral species around the world. We have brought up several pieces of coral on our clips. Kevin found a bright red piece of coral, which prompted a lesson for us about how many red corals release an irritant that will make our skin burn and sting. Fortunately, that’s not what Kevin brought up!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Julie Karre Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II July 26 – August 8, 2013
Mission: Shark and Red snapper Longline Survey Geographical Range of Cruise: Atlantic Date: Thursday August 1, 2013
Weather Data from the Bridge SW WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS
SEAS 3 TO 5 FEET
INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP
SCATTERED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS
Science and Technology Log
Today we did two sets and haul backs. For the first haul back, I was on the computer recording hooks retrieved. The computer system records the hooks as they are set out, keeping track of the number and the latitude and longitude as it is put on the longline. During the haul back, the hook number is recorded when it is retrieved as well as its latitude and longitude again. Then on another pop-up screen, it asks if there was a fish on the hook or if the bait was missing, whole, or damaged. This data complements the data recorded on the fish brought up by giving a complete look at each station. I like doing data collection, whether on the computer or on paper recording the sharks’ measurements.
During the second haul, which we began as the sun began to dip into the horizon, I decided to really try handling the sharks. And what a wonderful experience it was.
When handling the sharks there are so many factors to remember. First, I have to get the measurements of that shark to the data recorder. But while I’m doing that, I have to remember that I am holding a living thing that is entirely out of its element – a true fish out of water. And while sharks might be intimidating (They are. Trust me.), they’re also fragile. Hooks are sharp and unsympathetic, so those of us handling have to take extra care not do exacerbate the damage done by the hook.
The circle hooks, pictured below, are designed to catch a shark or fish without the hook being swallowed, which would be much more harmful and reduce survival rates. But they are still really difficult to remove. First, they are difficult to remove because of the barb, which is there to keep the shark or fish from being able to flail itself off the hook. But they’re also difficult to remove because sharks’ skin is incredibly tough. The sharks I have touched range from feeling like really tough, thick leather to various grit sandpaper. The one exception so far for me was the Scalloped Hammerhead, which was really smooth. Upon further conversation with Kristin, I’ve learned that circle hooks have also been shown to reduce sea turtle mortality. It is thought that they might also reduce the mortality of by-catch (unintended catch) in tuna fisheries, though this theory needs further study to be validated.
Working out the hooks really intimidated me because while trying to get a sharp pointy object out of a shark, the shark is often flailing and flapping trying to get away from me. I found myself talking to each shark, assuring it that I was on its side and was trying to be as gentle as possible.
Ultimately, it’s a really great experience to handle sharks and I felt so proud of myself each time I removed a hook. But the best feeling in the world is releasing that shark and watching it swim away. I would always yell goodbye and release a “yay!” that the shark swam away.
What a personally satisfying day. I could not be happier that I successfully handled sharks today. I feel like I’ve contributed to the team. I’ve done something that has to be done for each set and haul – recoding data, racking hooks, etc. – but now that I’ve handled sharks successfully, I definitely feel more useful.
I also feel like I’m finally adapting to the heat. It’s still overwhelming when I go from the air conditioned interior to the full force of the sun at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, but I’m not as drained by it. That added with the excitement of handling the sharks and the possibility of seeing different species with each haul back has really kept me quite upbeat!
On top of the excitement, it’s just generally a really good time with these people. I feel like I’ve made life-long friends and hope to see and keep in touch with them.
Meet the volunteers:
– Kevin Travis:
Kevin just graduated from high school and will be going to the University of Tampa in the fall. He plans to study Marine Biology. This is his first survey
– Holly Perryman
Holly is a graduate student at the University of Miami. This is her second survey. She was a volunteer on the Fall Groundfish survey last year.
– Arjen Krijgsman
Arjen is a native of the Netherlands, but has been in the United States teaching for the last three years. Prior to teaching in the United States, he worked in schools doing various jobs in Russia, Japan, and Egypt. He is looking forward to becoming a US citizen. Volunteering on the Oregon II has become a hobby and feels a lot like coming home. He says “You come out a few times and people get to know you. It’s really quite lovely.” He loves the time spent on the water.
– Claudia Friess
Claudia is a native of Germany, but she’s been in the United States since she was 17. She graduated from high school outside of Houston, Texas and currently resides in Austin, Texas. She is a fisheries analyst with Ocean Conservancy.
Ian is from Manchester, England. He is currently working in the Biology Department at Xavier University after completing his PhD at Clemson University. He studies shark evolution and development. This is his fourth survey with NOAA.
This group of people have become fast friends and I am incredibly proud to work with them each day. I look forward to seeing what adventures they’re off to after this.
Did You Know?
There is a new unit of measurement aboard the Oregon II. It’s 5 feet and a quarter inch and it’s called a Julie.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Julie Karre Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II July 26 – August 8, 2013
Mission: Shark and Red snapper Longline Survey Geographical Range of Cruise: Atlantic Date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Weather Data from the Bridge SW WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS BECOMING SE IN THE AFTERNOON
SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET WITH A DOMINANT PERIOD 14 SECONDS
SLIGHT CHANGE OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS
Science and Technology Log
What an incredibly fast-paced morning/end of shift for the night shift! As the day shift was getting up and wandering out to check in, the night shift was putting out their first set of the cruise. Day shift, which I’m on, put out two sets the afternoon/night before. Night shift had to skip two last night because of the current. But this haul back made up for it. The crew processed 64 sharks – Sharpnose and Blacknose – at a swift, demanding pace. It was a learning experience to see them handle it so calmly, never missing a beat.
At noon it was our turn and by 2pm we were putting out the first of three hauls we would do that day. That first haul brought up 56 sharks in just over an hour’s time. I was recording the data as measurements were taken. We brought up Sharpnose Sharks and Blacknose Sharks. It has been such an eye-opening experience bringing up sharks these last two days because it is so easy to imagine sharks as being enormous and ferocious, which of course some are, but we are bringing up sharks that, for the most part, can be held up with one hand and weigh less than 4.5kg. I think it is important to remember that the images of The Great White and Bull Sharks are not necessarily representative of all sharks. That doesn’t mean that these smaller sharks are not dangerous, it just means they’re not enormous and overwhelming.
We had just enough time to rebait the hooks and hang out for a few minutes before we set out another set 9 miles later. That haul back was light, but did come with a Scalloped Hammerhead. When we get these large sharks (Nurse, Tiger, Hammerhead, Sandbar), it requires a large cradle attached to a crane. The cradle is lowered into the water and the shark is led on with the line attached to the hook. This requires a lot of precise coordination. The person operating the crane cannot see the shark and is then dependent on those at the opening to be clear and loud with directions. Two people hold ropes that stabilize the cradle. They have to stay in sync so that the moving shark doesn’t throw itself over a side, while another person is trying to control the shark with the line attached to the hook. It’s really incredible to watch this team of skilled fishermen and scientists work so quickly with such a large animal. Each large animal is measured, weighed, tagged, and a small tissue sample is taken. Then the cradle is lowered and it swims gracefully away.
A quick dinner later and then we set out what ended up being our last set around 9:30 pm. At 10:50 pm we began our haul back, which was light on Sharpnose and Blacknose. We got a few and they were small, but the real treat was hauling up 4 Sandbars. Of the 4, we brought up 2 because the other 2 got away. The Sandbar is a really beautiful shark. It has a high first dorsal fin and is one of the largest coastal sharks in the world. According to Chief Scientist Kristin Hannan, the Sandbar’s large fin makes it more desirable by fishermen harvesting fins. Having seen these large, but gorgeous, animals and how gracefully they swim makes me sad that they would be desirable for such an unsustainable practice. Fortunately, in 2008 the National Marine Fisheries Service banned all commercial landings of Sandbar Sharks. The Sandbar is currently listed as a vulnerable species due to overfishing.
This haul back gave me a unique perspective. In previous hauls I’d been over where the fish are measured, weighed, and data recorded. But this time I was racking hooks as they came back, which means that I was just below the window where NOAA Corps Officer ENS Rachel Pryor was driving the ship. This is ENS Pryor’s first longline survey and she said it’s the survey that has the deck and bridge the most connected. Because we’re pulling up animals from a bottom longline, the control of the ship is crucial. The driver must control the ship on station making sure it doesn’t drift over the longline and in those instances of bringing up big sharks on the cradle, he or she keeps us on the station so there isn’t too much tension on the line. Whether it’s ENS Pryor, another NOAA Corps officer, or the Captain, Master Dave Nelson, he or she is just as essential to the survey as the people handling the sharks. Truly a team effort.
The set ended right at a shift change and we were lucky to make that switch on a light haul. Most of the hooks came up empty, including emptying of our bait, so something down there enjoyed an easy free meal.
I took the opportunity to watch the stars for a while before heading to bed. I was not disappointed.
During those first three days of no fishing, much reading was done. I finished a book on Sunday and am waiting to start my other book since I only brought two, but others on the ship have been reading a lot during breaks. At least two people have read the entire Hunger Games Trilogy while on board. It should come as no surprise to my students that this makes me VERY happy. The seventh and eighth graders of Armistead Gardens will be returning to school in August for a Hunger Games semester. The eighth graders read the first book before we left school last year, so we are set to keep reading. The seventh graders begin the Games when we meet in August.
I finished the debut novel by Carrie Mesrobian, which is scheduled to be released this fall. I began reading on Thursday the 25th when I moved onto the ship, but I had to slow myself down because I only have one other book. So I paced it enough to give me a few more days of pleasure. And what a pleasure it is to read such a raw and real book. I read a lot of young adult fiction, mostly for pleasure and sometimes to know what my students are in. I love what young adult literature offers readers in terms of dealing with certain experiences. I have not read many young adult novels written from the male perspective, though. I know there are many, but I have not done a very good job of getting into them. I loved reading Evan. His self-loathing was so real that I was immediately on his side. I thought the sensitive subject matter was handled realistically and appropriately. Well done. Can’t wait to read it again.
Did You Know?
I learned this from a science teacher at Armistead Gardens Elem/Middle school – there are FOUR meteor showers peaking last night and tonight – Piscis, Austrinids, Aquariids, and Capricornids. Maybe some of my “shooting stars” were from these meteor showers. Thanks Ms. Palmisano for sharing your knowledge!
This is the 19th year of doing the Shark and Red Snapper Longline Survey. That’s a lot of data!