Thursday, October 11, 2012

Deep-C Fisheries/Ecology Cruise - October 2012



Blog Post:  October 9, 2012 (WBII1307)

FISHING on the EDGE

Late night work for grad students
Jo Imhoff and Cheston Peterson (FSU)
as they take biological samples
from everything we catch.
Photo credit: Chris Malinowski
Hello from the deep end of the West Florida Shelf pool in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.  The DEEP-C fish ecology crew, led by Dr. Dean Grubbs (Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory) is onboard the RV WEATHERBIRD II with other colleagues from the lab (myself, Dr. Chris. Koenig, grad students Jo Imhoff, Cheston Peterson, and Kelly Kingon, and technicians Chris “The Machine” Malinowski, Jim Barley, and Emily Marcus), Savannah State University (Dr. Chip Cotton), and University of North Florida (Dr. Jim Gelsleichter’s grad student Brenda Anderson).   Also onboard are producer Alexa Elliott and videographer Sean Hickey,  from the Public Broadcasting Television Station in Miami, WPBT2.  Alexa produces an amazing program called Changing Seas (www.changingseas.tv), and is writing a blog for their program while on the cruise (channel2.typepad.com/changing_seas).  The video of this cruise will air sometime in 2013.

Grad students Brenda Anderson (UNF) and
Kelly Kingon (FSU) take biological samples
from everything we catch.
Photo credit:  Chris Koenig
We arrived in Panama City, FL, on October 7th  for a changing of the guard as the DEEP-C benthic ecology crew offloaded and we onloaded our gear.  It was great to see Dr. Amy Baco-Taylor (FSU) and Dr. Joel Kostka (Georgia Tech) and their crew, and particularly gratifying to hear how well their cruise had gone.  Fingers crossed that we, too, have clear sailing.  So far, so good.

We left the morning of October 8th, for Madison Swanson Marine Reserve, a protected area that was put into place in the year 2000 after Dr. Koenig and I demonstrated the effects of fishing on spawning aggregations of gag (Mycteroperca microlepis), a grouper species that changes sex over the course of its lifetime and which has suffered from loss of males as a result of intensive fishing (Read about shelf edge reefs http://marinelab.fsu.edu/faculty/labs/CK/shelf_edge_reefs.html). 

 Gag in Madison Swanson Marine Reserve.
Photo credit National Geographic
We set traps and longlines on the shelf edge and slope of the reserve at depths ranging from 70 to 200 m as part of a survey of the fish fauna of the region.  At the shallower depths, we caught gag, scamp (Mycteroperca phenax), red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus), vermilion snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens), greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili), and Almaco jack (Seriola rivoliana)—all economically important species.  Gears shifted at greater depths, where we found golden tilefish (Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps), six gill (Hexanchuns griseus) and scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) sharks, along with hake and other deeper water species.  The hammerhead is a candidate for listing as an endangered species by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark. 
Photo credit NOAA Fisheries.
After staying up all night and early morning working the gear and processing samples for biological diversity, reproductive condition, and oil and mercury contamination, among other things, we’re steaming to the eastern edge of the De Soto Canyon, where we will repeat this performance before plunging into the deep sea, extending our depth range of sampling to 2000 m, or ten times deeper than the work completed this morning.  Everyone is trying to get some shut eye before facing this afternoon and evening’s work.  Can’t wait to see what surfaces.  I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Over and out as we move to the Edge of the De Soto Canyon.

Posted by:
Dr. Felicia Coleman

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