17 Days in the Gulf of Mexico

In July 2010 I was a National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Teacher at Sea. I spent 17 days aboard the NOAA ship Oregon II, working on the SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey in the Gulf of Mexico. Here's my story.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sorting the Catch

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Bruce Taterka

NOAA Ship: Oregon II

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey

Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday July 11, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 0730 (7:30 am)

Position: Latitude 28.18.6 N; Longitude 95.19.4 W

Present Weather: party cloudy

Visibility: 10 nautical miles

Wind Speed: 12.35 knots

Wave Height: 2 feet

Sea Water Temp: 28.9 C

Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 29.1 C; Wet bulb = 25.4 C

Barometric Pressure: 1014.30 mb

Science and Technology Log

Kim and I have blogged about some of the tools we use aboard the Oregon II like FSCS, CTD, Bongos and the Neuston. But what, you ask, are some other tools we use that are not high tech?

Believe it or not, shovels, baskets and trays are important tools on the ground fish survey. When a catch comes in the net is held by a crane and emptied into baskets, but a lot flops out onto the deck. We use shovels to pick up the rest. In the wet lab we use small shovels to move the catch along and trays to sort the organisms by species. (Check out the video below!) When it comes to identification paperback field guides and laminated posters can help with ID.

Once we sort the catch, certain species have to be prepared and saved for research. Some specimens go to university scientists. For example, we bag and freeze specimens of batfish for an ongoing research study.

Slantbrow batfish, Ogcocephalaus declivirostris

For food species like shrimp and red snapper, we bag specimens to go to NSIL (National Seafood Inspection Lab). This is especially important now because of the oil spill –seafood samples are being tested to determine what parts of the Gulf can be opened to commercial fishing. Samples from leg I of the Groundfish Survey are going to be sensory tested, or “sniff” tested. For this test we have to wrap the specimens in foil to contain any scents so that the ‘sniff testers’ (people trained to pick up petroleum scent at an amazing 100 ppm) can identify if petroleum products are present. For leg II the focus is on chemical sampling for petroleum. However, protocols can change daily when you are sampling during a disaster. Here’s a link to a recent news story on testing the fish we’re catching and sending to the lab: http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2010/07/09/gupta.seafood.test.cnn

Personal Log:

We've been seeing lots of cool stuff. Yesterday we were trailed by a school of sharks for most of the day.

Here's a shark circling our CTD.

We also caught a large Roughtail Stingray, Dasyatis centroura, in our trawl.

He swam away feeling fine.

Here's a video showing us processing a catch yesterday. It's a time lapse showing in 2 1/2 minutes the 45-minute process of sorting the 57 kg(~125 lbs) into 55 different species.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff Bruce!

    An earlier post referred to "getting your sea legs." Ugh. Very nice of you to dismiss that whole process in one sentence, but I'm sure it felt pretty awful for awhile. :)

    What kinds of things are you eating? I suppose all cooking is suspended during rough seas!

    I was at Jimmy Johnston's wake this afternoon. His parents were overwhelmed with how many people came out - they were truly touched and sad that Jimmy could not see how many people thought highly of him and loved him. Very sad.