Marilyn Frydrych, September 17, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters

Deploying the fishing net
Deploying the fishing net

Date: September 17, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy
Wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature: 20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility: 10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

A fisherman dumping the catch
A fisherman dumping the catch

The third day out was much like the second day. Our first job was to fish with the big net.  This time the chief scientist wanted to know what some small vertical echoes on the echogram were. He guessed that they were shrimp or krill. The acoustic echogram used three frequencies:  18 kHz, 38 kHz, and 120 kHz. If dots appeared in all three then he was pretty sure it was fish and most likely herring. These particular vertical dots appeared only in the 18 kHz echogram.  He guessed they were very small fish, but wanted to determine if the signature belonged to opening were huge metal doors.  They looked like doors, but in fact never closed. They were actually more like the front edge of an airplane wing. Their purpose was to stay parallel to each other and keep the net open. The net was rolled up on a large roller, which sat at the center back of the fantail. It was about 250 ft long.  When it was time to deploy, the fishermen used a winch to unwind the net. The person at the helm had to be extremely careful that the boat kept at a steady headway of about 3 to 4 knots. The doors were stored at the very end of the stern. With the help of their own hydraulic winches they were lifted to a spot where they could be attached to the net.  There was a place on each side of the net where the side wire changed to a chain link. The metal doors were clasped on these links and then dragged into the sea.  Another link in the wire was for heavy chains. Their weight of about 400 pounds each held the sides of the net down.

Fishermen setting up the recorder which is sent outwith the net.
Fishermen setting up the recorder sent outwith the net.

The night crew, on from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am were busy Wednesday night and on into the morning.  They did two CTD’s and three net deployments.  They left us about 50 herring and silver hake to observe in the morning.  Richie Logan, one of the fishermen, used these to write a birthday note to his daughter. Here’s his picture. Each time we sent out a net we were hoping for about half a clothes basketful of fish. Last night they filled 30 baskets.  Only about 1/3 of a basket is ever measured and weighed. The rest are tossed back.  Our chief scientist said he can remember processing enough to fill 60 baskets. So far most of the biomass in the basket has been krill. Mixed in with the krill are small anthropoids maybe a half inch square, jelly fish about twice that size, Illex squid from 2 to 6 inches long, baby silver hake, butterfish, or red hake. These last three are all in the neighborhood of 1 inch long.

This morning we pulled up a lamprey eel about 2 feet long and a couple two inch lumpfish in the evening.  Most of the fish were dead when we got to them.  We had to wait until the fishermen were totally finished with winding the net and had dumped the net’s contents onto the deck before we were allowed on the fantail. Then we sorted the large fish into clothes baskets and the smaller ones into small trays. Wednesday Jacquie Ostrom, another volunteer from Colorado Springs, noticed that two 3-inch lumpfish were moving.  She added some water to our rectangular sorting pan and a piece of clear hard plastic we had thought was some molt or litter also started to move. No one seemed to know what the “plastic” was.  After a quick reference to the Internet we learned it was the larva of the spiny lobster.

Richie Logan making a Happy Birthday email for his daughter.
Richie Logan making a Happy Birthday email for his daughter.

Personal Log 

We must have passed by the north-south migration path of the whales.  We didn’t spot any today. The work load is really light compared with teaching.  We work two or three hours cataloguing the catch after each trawl, clean up with the saltwater deck hose, and then wait for the next trawl maybe three or four hours later. A 20 minute CTD deployment every now and then is the only other work we are expected to do. The cruise is turning out to be very relaxing. I spend quite a bit of time just staring out at the sea, immersing myself in its gentle rhythm.

Seven basketsful of herring from a haul in the deep waters near Georges Bank.
Seven basketsful of herring from a haul in the deep waters near Georges Bank.
The piece of “plastic” turned out to be the larva of a spiny lobster.
The piece of “plastic” turned out to be the larva of a spiny lobster.

Chris Monsour, June 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 26, 2007

An eel that was captured during lobster trapping on board OSCAR ELTON SETTE is held in a can until it can be released.
An eel that was captured during lobster trapping is held in a can until it can be released.

Science and Technology Log 

My science logs will not have as much science for the next few days as there has been a change in plans. NOAA Ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE is currently responding to a medical emergency within the Monument, which may delay operations for six days.  I am not sure what our course of action will be, but the circumstance has shown me just how vast these islands are and how I am essentially in a liquid desert.  When I look at a map of all the Hawaiian Islands, it does not seem that big, but if placed over a map of the U.S. mainland, the island of Hawai’i would be in Georgia, along the coast, and Kure Atoll would be in the northeast corner of Utah.

I did some research and found that during the winter storms, which bring about quick currents and dangerous waves in shallow waters, juvenile spiny lobsters leave their shallow reef habitat and travel over 30 miles (19 km) to a deep reef habitat where they will live for their adult life.  Spiny lobsters line up in single file when they migrate or move to another area, touching their antennae to the tail of the lobster in front of them. As many as 100,000 lobsters will get in this line, which is thought to look like one long eel or snake.  If the lobsters are attacked, they gather in a circle with their tails pointing inward, displaying all of their spines outward.  For the science part of this log I will highlight two of the juvenile spiny lobster predators. Essentially, everything is connected out here, and what happens to one eventually will happen to the other.

Hapu’u, a predator of the spiny lobster, caught during bottom fishing
Hapu’u, a predator of the spiny lobster, caught during bottom fishing

One predator of juvenile spiny lobsters is the eel. The three species of eels that I have seen are the conger eel, lemonhead eel, and the steiny eel.  Most often these eels have been in the traps and are regarded with much disdain when the traps are opened.  The lemonhead and the steiny are moray eels while the conger is in its own group.  Moray eels are numerous in Hawaii, found in holes and under large rocks during the day.  They usually hunt in the open under cover of night but will during the day if the opportunity arises. Morays have thick leathery skin that envelops the continuous marginal fin and lack pectoral fins.  Morays are rarely consumed by humans since they are likely to cause ciguatera poisoning, a serious neurological condition that can be contracted by eating certain kinds of reef fish.

The two Morays, the lemonhead and steiny attain about 3 feet. I have seen both species at varying lengths and they have an aggressive demeanor.  Today one fell on deck as we were removing it from a trap and we were all glad to see it go over board on its own. The conger eels have smooth scaleless skin, large pectoral fins, and the continuous marginal fin rays are easily visible.  They are much less common than moray eels in Hawaii. The generic Hawaiian name for eels is Puhi. Another predator of juvenile spiny lobster is the hapu’u, also called the Hawaiian grouper. Groupers are bottom fish, lying in wait near the ocean floor to ambush passing fish or invertebrates. When a likely meal gets close, the grouper opens its expandable mouth and inhales, sucking in both water and prey. As you might suspect, this action takes place with lightning-strike efficiency.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour captured this image of a Galapagos shark during a feeding frenzy.  These followers of the ship are one of the reasons that swimming is not permitted.
Chris Monsour captured this image: Galapagos shark during a feeding frenzy. These followers of the ship are one of the reasons that swimming is not permitted.

Personal Log 

As mentioned earlier with the change in plans, I will have a lot more time on my hands and will have to find other activities on the ship until we resume operations.  We’ll return to Necker Island as soon as we can and begin setting traps.  We did not put fresh bait in the traps and we secured all of our equipment on deck.  For the next few days I will have time to review some of the data with the scientists, research the other animals we’ve collected, read more books and watch some movies.  I have read five books so far and in reality, what else would I be doing?  I just wish we could get in the water, but there is this little problem, sharks. The sharks follow the ship at times and I am sure they would love to snack on human if given the chance.

Did You Know?  

1. Lobsters can cast off a leg if a predator bites it. This strategy helps to prevent the lobster from getting an infection in a bite wound and it is better to lose a leg than a life.

2. Spiny lobsters produce noises to warn other lobsters to stay out of their territory. They rub the hard area at the bottom of their antennae against ridges on their head. It makes a grating noise that warns others to stay away.

Malama pono….

Chris

Chris Monsour, June 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 26, 2007

Above is an example of the bluestriped snapper that was caught off of Necker Island. This species has become a nuisance since it was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands.
Bluestriped snapper that was caught off of Necker Island. This species has become a nuisance since introduced to the Hawaiian Islands.

Science and Technology Log 

Today we hauled our first set of lobster traps at Necker Island.  I must say the Chief Scientist was right when he said there would be less lobster here.  I think we may have caught 25 lobsters out of 160 traps. Very disappointing numbers, less than one lobster per trap. It is possible that the traps were in too deep of water and the substrate being sand made conditions unfavorable. We will be here for 13 more days or for 13 more sets, depending on how you want to look at it. A majority of what we caught today were different types of crustaceans and bluestriped snapper.

The bluestriped snapper is a non-native species that was brought to Hawaii from French Polynesia in the 1950’s. The fish’s native distribution is the Indo-Pacific from east Africa – Tuamotus; north to southern Japan; south to New Caledonia. The fish was brought to Hawaii to fill a vacant niche in the reef community, a shallow water snapper.  The bluestriped snapper does not have a good reputation.  In Hawaii, the bluestriped snapper share the same habitat with native fishes and this may result in competition for habitat use and food sources. Evidence has been documented which suggests that bluestriped snapper may displace native fish from important refuge habitat.  However this remains a controversial topic and more research investigating the ecological niche of L. kasmira is needed. From what I saw today though, the most common fish brought up from the traps was the bluestriped snapper.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour holds up an example of a sponge crab that was captured off Necker Island.
Chris Monsour holds up an example of a sponge crab that was captured off Necker Island.

When I searched the internet for “bluestriped snapper” and “Hawaii”, I found that many of the links discussed the fish as being a great aquarium fish and really no other use.  Yes, I will admit the fish are great to look at, but what will be the future impact?  The discussion of the bluestriped snapper led into the problems which exists in Lake Erie with the invasive round gobi, zebra mussel, and purple loosestrife.  The main difference here in Hawaii is that this species was introduced intentionally and the impact is yet to be seen. Granted, it has been over 50 years since the bluestriped snapper was introduced, but most of the people I have talked to on the ship see it as a nuisance and not a threat.

Today, as mentioned earlier, I saw more species of crustaceans, especially crabs. There were two groups that I have been seeing quite a bit and that is hermit crab and sponge crab.  Anyone who has explored a tide pool is familiar with the hermit crab.  Although an external skeleton like other crabs covers their front parts, their long soft tails are not protected.  Hence, they use empty snail shells for protection and are very difficult to remove.

One of the many hermit crabs that was caught during OSCAR ELTON SETTE’s cruise of the North West Hawaiian Islands poses for a picture.
One of the many hermit crabs that was caught during the cruise poses for a picture.

The other species that has really caught my attention is the sleepy sponge crab. The sleepy sponge crab is considered to be the most evolutionary primitive of the true crabs. As I found out, they are very slowing moving and nocturnal. They use their hindmost legs to carry a piece of sponge over its back. The crab uses the sponge for camouflage and within the sponge is living a whole myriad of other organisms like sea stars and forminifera (algae).  Unfortunately as I found out, when the sponge comes off the back of the crab, you can’t put it back on.

Personal Log

I was posed this question by the CO (commanding officer) of the ship: What does a Teacher at Sea do on a transit day after a hard week of lobstering at Maro Reef? 

Transit days are spent catching up on reading, laundry and rest.  I finished up one book and read the first half on another. On Sunday at twilight we had a pyrotechnic display on the fantail of the ship. Essentially we had to get rid of the expired flares, so we had a good time setting them off.  Then on Monday before we set the gear, we had four sets of drills which included a quarters escape drill.  Right now though, I am glad to see Necker Island, the first land I have seen in a long time (it resembles Abe Lincoln’s profile).  So with this I will be posting another log in a few days.

Questions of the Day 

1. What type of relationship exists between the sponge crab, the sponge on it’s back , and anything living in the sponge?  Commensalism, mutualism, or parasitism?

A hui hou,… Chris

Chris Monsour, June 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour is all smiles as he pulls up two Ehu during bottom fishing. This was the first time Monsour ever bottom fished.
Chris Monsour is all smiles as he pulls up two Ehu during his first bottom fishing experience.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was our last day at Maro Reef and now we are making the 36-hour trip to Necker Island 350 miles to the east southeast.  We finished up trapping today early as the number of lobsters collected was greatly reduced by the time we got to the sets of 20’s.  I had the job of assisting in the lab today. I would collect the lobsters from the buckets, identify the sex, and then hold in place so they could be measured.  In the morning, we collected a lot of slipper lobsters, sometimes as many as 19 or 20 in a trap. There were some spiny, but not nearly as many as the slipper. After lunch we collected the sets of 20 and found quite a difference. Instead of lobsters, we were collecting hermit crabs, spider crabs, sea anemone, and other types of crabs.  The differences may have to do with the sandy bottom or the greater deep of the traps.  I have tomorrow off to do whatever, which may include finishing up the book I started 8 days ago.

In this log I am going to talk about bottom fishing, which is one of the activities we get to do during the evening. Bottom fishing is the name given to line-fishing with baited hooks on or very close to the sea bottom. This is a fishing method, which catches predatory fish that feed on bottom-living crustaceans, fish, etc. One or more hooks may be used. Deep-bottom fishing has been known for many years in the Pacific region, and has been practiced for generations in some of the remote island communities of the Pacific. In the old days fishing was carried out from paddling canoes using gear made from locally-available materials, and was a challenge to even the most experienced fisherman.  We however have the luxury of modern bottom fishing gear such as a winch to help bring up our catch.

One of the reasons for the popularity in the fish that are caught by bottom fishing is the species caught never carry ciguatera fish poisoning. This is a type of natural toxicity, which originates from reef and lagoon fish that feed on toxic reef algae. Ciguatera fish poisoning causes illness and makes the affected person unable to eat seafood for a long time. The possible presence of ciguatera is a major cause of concern for many consumers of reef and lagoon fish. The fact that it never occurs in deepwater fish, due to their diet, makes these fish all the more valuable.  Some of the fish we have caught include Ehu, Uku, Opakapaka, Kahala, Butaguchi and Gindai. (have fun pronouncing these).

Deep-bottom fishing gear can be made from a range of materials, but the basic structure  is generally the same:

  • a mainline, several hundred meters long, to lower the hooks to the bottom.
  •  a terminal rig, usually 2–5 m in length, with attachment points for the mainline,  several hooks, and a sinker. The terminal rig can be made of nylon, or steel cable to resist cutting by the sharp teeth of fish or rough rocks and corals on the sea floor. The attachment points may be loops made on the ends of the terminal rig and at intervals along its length, or may be swivels knotted or crimped into the rig.
  •  several hooks, each fixed to a short trace , which can be connected to or disconnected from the attachment points along the terminal rig. This allows the traces to be changed quickly and easily when damaged or when the size of the fish being caught calls for smaller or larger hooks.
  • a heavy sinker, 0.5–2 kg in weight depending on the strength of the current, to get the rig down to the bottom quickly. I do enjoy the bottom fishing and to date I have caught 3 bottom fish, 1 Kahala and 2 Ehu. In fact I have the record on the boat for the largest Ehu at 54.6 centimeters!
Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour holds up two examples of fish caught during bottom fishing on board OSCAR ELTON SETTE.  The fish on the left is a Ehu and the fish on the right is a Uku.
Chris Monsour holds up two fish caught during bottom fishing; Ehu (left) and Uku (right).

Personal Log 

I am glad to have tomorrow off so to speak.  It will be good to sleep in and catch up on all the e-mails I have gotten.  As mentioned before, Necker Island in the past has been slow because of its proximity to the inhabited islands. The bottom fish we are collecting are being used to get an idea of the health of the reefs.  During the processing of the fish, we collect weight, length, gonads, liver, fin, and bones from the skull.  Ryan is collecting these for his research. It is a very interesting process and bloody one too.

Animals Seen Today 

Spiny lobster, Slipper lobster, Ridgeback lobster (type of spiny), Sea anemone, Hermit Crab, and Spider Crab.

Questions of the Day 

  1. What can we learn from Hawaiian values and practices to guide our interactions  with the land and sea today?
  2. What can we do to help restore declining fish populations?

A hui hou,… Chris

Chris Monsour, June 21, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 21, 2007

A juvenile spiny lobster is a welcome sign on the board OSCAR ELTON SETTE.  This was the smallest spiny lobster caught to date.
A juvenile spiny lobster is a welcome sign on the board OSCAR ELTON SETTE. This was the smallest spiny lobster caught to date.

Science and Technology Log 

We have been trapping for 5 days now and I have been the cracker twice, runner, and setter twice. The days are going by very quick and I find it harder and harder to write because by the time I get done, I am exhausted and then it is time to bottom fish.  We have been having good days in terms of the number of lobsters we are collecting and returning. Just by what I have seen, the slipper lobster is the most numerous and I really can’t seem to find the answer to why.  I do know that I would rather tangle with a slipper lobster than a spiny.  The focus of this log will be on the spiny lobster and what makes it such an interesting organism. As with most lobsters, the spiny lobster is important in the reef community.  I have learned that the spiny lobsters are usually found under ledges or in caves with only their antennae sticking out. The term stridulation comes from the lobster’s ability to rub its antennae to warn other animals away.  I finally understand why we are setting the traps at night. Lobsters remain in their shelters during the day and emerge at night to forage over the reef and in our case for mackerel within the traps.

Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour captured this image of spiny and slipper lobsters waiting to be processed on board OSCAR ELTON SETTE.  All of the lobsters were released back to a spot near to where they were captured.
Chris Monsour captured this image of spiny and slipper lobsters waiting to be processed. All of the lobsters were released near the spot where they were captured.

The spiny lobster does not have the large chelipeds that the Maine lobster has.  The first thing I asked about was what do we do about the crusher and pincher (terms used to describe the front appendages of Maine lobster and crayfish). The spiny lobster does not have them; instead they have the spines that point forward that cover their antennae and dorsal surface.  During the reproductive period, which occurs during summer, male lobsters seek out females.  The males attach a sticky packet of sperm near the female’s reproductive opening and her eggs are fertilized as they leave her body.  The female attaches the fertilized eggs to the delicate limbs on the underside of her abdomen.  She aerates the developing embryos by fanning her abdominal limbs through the water.  Females with eggs are called “berried” females because the eggs resemble tiny, reddish or blackish berries. The embryos hatch months later and take up life in the plankton as wafer-thin phyllosome larvae.  The larvae spend up to 9 months in the plankton before settling out to begin life on the bottom.

As I have found through discussion with members of the crew, spiny lobsters are a popular food item in Hawaii.  Just as we have been doing, the commercial fishermen catch them using baited wire traps set on the seafloor.  Recreational fishermen, scuba divers, and snorkelers around the main Hawaiian Islands can only capture lobsters by hand (no nets or spears are allowed), and because of the long reproductive period, it is illegal to catch spiny lobsters during the summer months (May through August).  Females with eggs are protected throughout the year.

Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour holds up a Grey Reef Shark that was caught during the lobster cruise.  Data such as the stomach contents will be used to further understand the dynamics that occur on the Maro Reef.  Two of Chris’ shipmates, Ryan and Garrett show their excitement over Chris’s first shark encounter.
Chris Monsour holds up a Grey Reef Shark that was caught during the lobster cruise. Stomach contents will be used to further understand what occurs on the Maro Reef. Two of Chris’ shipmates show their excitement over Chris’s first shark encounter.

Personal Log 

As mentioned earlier I am worn out by the end of the day, but it is nice that I have gotten into a routine. We have 2 more days left here at Maro Reef then it is onto Necker Island for 2 weeks. I have been told that Necker Island is not as exciting because it was where more of the trapping occurred in the past and so the numbers are not as high. We will see what happens.

Animals Seen Today 

Uku albatross Ehu terns Reef sharks frigate birds Galopogos Sharks lemonhead eel Spiny Lobster conger eel Slipper lobster Hermit crab Spider crab Sponge crab

Questions of the Day 

  1. How does human debris have a negative impact on marine life, and what can we do       to solve this problem?
  2. What can we learn from a bolus about seabirds and human impact on their habitat?
  3. How do products we use on land affect our ocean and beaches?
  4. How effective are some alternative products that have less impact on the environment?

A hui hou… (Until we meet again) Chris

Chris Monsour, June 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 18, 2007

Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour, holds up one of the large Uku that was caught.  The fish will be used for bottomfish studies.
Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour, holds up one of the large Uku that was caught. The fish will be used for bottomfish studies.

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday and today were very busy days on board OSCAR ELTON SETTE as we set our first traps, cut bait and then pulled up traps and collected the lobsters, eels, sharks, and whatever else made it into the traps. Yesterday we set 160 traps off of Maro Reef. We set 10 lines of 8 traps and 4 lines of 20 traps. Each trap was assembled and 2 mackerel, which had been cut into thirds, was placed into the baiter. The baiter is a small container within the trap that holds the bait. The bait was cut earlier in the day. I volunteered to cut bait and I spent about an hour slicing and dicing the mackerel. Once the traps were baited we spent about an hour setting the traps. The traps were stacked into groups of fours and I would hand a trap to a fisherman who was standing on the stern and watch as the traps were pushed off into the water. I wish I could say my day was done but there was still a lot to do before tomorrow, including getting more bait.

Every night about 2100, the “crackers” for the next day go into a walk in freezer and pull out 13 boxes of frozen mackerel to thaw.  (The term “cracker” comes from the job of opening up the traps when they are pulled out of the water, one has to crack open the lobster trap and pull out whatever is in side.)  The next morning I got up at 0545 to cut the bait. The other cracker for the day was Matt and we spent a good hour cutting up the mackerel. I did learn that it is much easier to cut a half frozen mackerel as opposed to a thawed out mackerel.  The knives were kind of dull and the mackerel were full of blood and eggs and there were a few times where the mackerel ended up on my shirt.  No problems though.

Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour sorts through a trap that was brought up off the Maro Reef.
Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour sorts through a trap that was brought up off the Maro Reef.

The processing of pulling up 160 lobster pots takes up the good portion of the day so I will keep it simple.  Once the pots are pulled from the water and end up on the deck they first come to the crackers.  The crackers open the pots and remove all organisms from inside. Today, this included slipper lobsters, spiny lobsters, eels, sharks, crabs, fish and one octopus. The most difficult had to be the octopus, it just refused to come put and its tentacles stuck to every surface.  It took both Matt and me to pry the octopus from the trap. We both tried to avoid the mouth because they do have a beak like structure and neither of us wanted to see if it could remove a finger.  The spiny lobsters were also difficult because one, they are covered with spines but are a lot stronger than one would think. They would kick back with their tail and one time my pinky got caught by tail and blood was drawn. The slipper lobsters are easier to handle and taking them out the trap was not a problem because their bodies lack the spines.  Most of the lobsters that were pulled out were the slipper lobster, which are also the easiest to handle.  The worst part of the job as cracker is constantly being wet and having to dunk my hands in the bait buckets which are full of mackerel blood and organs.  The smell of the mackerel has found its way into my shoes, gloves, hair, and skin. I don’t think I will ever be able get rid of it. My job as cracker ended and tomorrow I start as a runner. Everyone who has done this cruise before says cracker is the best job. I guess I will soon find out.

Personal Log 

I would be lying if I said I was not tired. The job of cracker is not the hardest job, but when one has his hand in a trap that has eels, sharks, and spiny lobsters in it, it can be stressful. On top of emptying the traps, the old bait has to be removed and new bait placed in, all the while, a new trap is making its way down the table. So after eating dinner at 1630, I am ready to call it a day. By keeping so busy I have not had as much time to sit on the observation deck and look for whales and dolphins, but I have come face to face with some really amazing animals.  I am really fascinated by the eels.  They are very aggressive and strong animals. I almost had one get real personal with me when I was emptying a lobster pot and the eel had managed to hide on the bottom.  As I was picking up spiny lobster, this eel pops it head up by my hand and all I could say was EEL! EEL!  Everyone had a good laugh. We ended the day with a feeding frenzy in which all of the old bait is dumped over the side and the Galapagos Shark’s come in. It is an amazing sight to see and to be that close to such a great animal.  I am sure there will be many more moments like that to come.

Animals Seen Today 

Spiny lobster
Crabs
Slipper lobster
Lemon Head Eel
Galapagos Shark
Uku
Reef Shark
Hermit Crab

Question of the Day

Looking at the food web of The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, what would happen if a large predator like the Galapagos Shark was removed? Would there be another animal that could replace it in the web?

Aloha… Chris

Chris Monsour, June 15, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 15, 2007

Frigate bird
Frigatebird

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday we entered The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (formerly the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument). I found from talking to the crew it is the largest Marine Protected Area in the world. The new native Hawaiian name, Papahānaumokuākea reflects Hawaiian traditions relating to the birth of the Islands. Papahanaumoku is the goddess who birthed the islands.

I spent most of today on the observation deck above the bridge looking for birds and waiting for French Frigate Shoals to appear on the horizon.  A part of our mission was to deliver supplies to Fish and Wildlife personal on Tern Island, which is part of the shoal. Tern Island was formed into a runway to serve as a refueling stop for planes enroute to Midway during World War II. Some of the buildings remain and could be seen with a pair of binoculars.

This image of La Pérouse Pinnacle was taken by Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour as OSCAR ELTON SETTE approached the French Frigate Shoals to deliver supplies.
This image of La Pérouse Pinnacle was taken by Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour as OSCAR ELTON SETTE approached the French Frigate Shoals to deliver supplies.

I found through some investigating that French Frigate Shoals is an open atoll consisting of a large, crescent-shaped reef surrounding numerous small, sandy islets. The first object that stands out as soon as one reaches the shoal is the steep-sided pinnacle that sticks up out of the water. It is the first land I have seen in 3 days so it may not seem like much, but it was a welcome sight. The pinnacle is named “La Pérouse Pinnacle” after Compte de La Pérouse, who visited the atoll in 1786. As I did some research on the shoals I found that in the moonlight the pinnacle so resembled a full-rigged sailing ship that it lured more than one vessel to her doom on the shoals.

On deck we were preparing the tables and traps for tomorrow as we will set traps tomorrow at 1700 (or at 5:00 p.m.)  I asked Garrett who has been on this trip 5 times if I could get bait duty first. This consists of taking a Mackerel and making three cuts so that the muscle is exposed to attract the lobsters and any other organism that may venture into the trap. We will then collect the traps at 0800 Sunday morning.  We have set up an assembly line on the side of the ship, which consists of several tables end to end.  As a trap comes up, the cracker will open up the trap and take out the organisms that made it in and the old bait. The trap is then rebaited and sent toward the back of the ship.  The organisms that were collected will be placed in a bucket and sent to the wet lab to be measured and processed.  All of the lobsters that are collected will be returned after data such as carapace length are recorded.  The lobsters are not just tossed off the side of the boat, but are placed in a special cage and dropped to the bottom.  This prevents any predators from eating the lobster before they make it back to the bottom.

Personal Log 

The days have been going by pretty quickly.  I am ready to do some work though.  The major event of the past two days has been the meals and watching movies.  The food is excellent so I m sure my plan of losing weight on the trip will not come to be.  The good part now is that I have the chance to get to know the people I’m living with a lot better.  My roommate Mike is a student at the University in Hawaii and knows a great deal about sharks and I learned quite a bit about the behavior of the shark and especially about some of the sharks we may see.  I am learning to tie knots that will not come undone when we have large waves and I got to put on my survival suit for the first time during the abandon ship drill. I hope to have a picture to share of that.

It has become a common sight for Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour to see in the skies large, black birds, hovering lazily in place.  This is the frigatebird. The name “frigatebird” calls to mind the sails of ships and, indeed, frigatebirds sail gracefully in the air currents overhead. Their wingspan is some 7.5 feet and their deeply forked scissor-like tails afford them ultimate maneuverability. Their other common name, however, the “man-o’-war” bird, reflects the way in which they use their flying and maneuvering skill. Frigatebirds are pirates who harass incoming birds until the victim is so upset that it disgorges its catch. The frigatebird then drops with amazing speed and plucks the bolus out of the water, or even catches it before it hits.

Animals Seen Today 

Terns, Frigate birds, Shearwaters, and Dolphins.

Question of the Day 

During World War II what impact might the battles (Midway) that were fought near these islands have had on the ecosystem? Could there still be impact today?

Aloha… Chris

Chris Monsour, June 13, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 13, 2007

Science and Technology Log 

I have been in Hawaii for three days already to acclimate myself to the time change, learn about the job ahead of me, and to get to know the crew.  There are 11 members of the scientific crew including myself, all of us with a background in biology formally or informally.  Our adventure over the next 30 days will be to visit some of the islands that make up the Hawaiian Archipelago to see how the populations of two species of lobster have changed in the past year. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) are an uninhabited archipelago that extends 1200 miles across the Central Pacific Ocean.  The area supports many marine species including lobsters, bottomfish, and monk seals.  The two species of lobster that we will be studying are the slipper lobster and the spiny lobster. Both species of lobster were fished for about 15 years in the waters of the NWHI Six years ago the lobster fishery was closed and data suggests that the populations have not recovered appreciably.  The areas where the lobsters will be collected are Maro Reef and Necker Island. One of the interesting facts that I learned from the chief scientist is that the lobsters were not separated when they were collected; they were grouped together as lobster, even though there are major anatomical differences between the two. The data suggests that the slipper lobster population has done better in terms of increased population. I will be doing various jobs over the next four weeks such as baiting the traps, measuring the carapace of the lobsters, and collecting samples for DNA/ genetic research that one of the grad students is working on.  Essentially, he will be doing a population genetics study. I have not asked what type of information he is looking for and should do that tomorrow.

Another area that we others in the group will be studying is the bottomfish fishery.  Bottomfish are fish that are found at deeper depths and include pink snapper, flower snapper, red snapper, and the Hawaiian snapper. I am not sure how the bottomfish sampling will occur because there is a limit on the number of bottomfish that can be taken because the NWHI was declared a Marine National Monument in June of 2006.  With this status new restrictions have now been placed on what can and cannot be done within the Monument.  Another question I need to find the answer to is, “What is the difference between a monument and a sanctuary?”

Personal Log 

I have spent most of the day getting use to the rocking of the boat and settling into my stateroom, which I am very happy with and should be quite comfortable for the next 30 days. If the beginning of the trip is any prelude to the rest, it will be an amazing experience. I am looking forward to getting to know the rest of the scientific crew and learning from them, just as I hope they learn from me.

Animals Seen Today 

Terns, Shearwaters, and Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins.

Question of the Day 

What type of interactions might be occurring between the spiny and slipper lobster that could explain the differences in their populations?  Is one a generalist/specialist?

Aloha… Chris

A rainbow is seen over Pearl Harbor as the OSCAR ELTON SETTE sets sail for its 30 day mission to survey the lobster population of the NWHI.
A rainbow is seen over Pearl Harbor as the OSCAR ELTON SETTE sets sail for its 30 day mission to survey the lobster population of the NWHI.