About this Cruise

This month-long cruise aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette brings together six diverse teams to survey fish populations using non-catch methods. Traditionally, fish populations have been assessed by catching fish, visiting fish markets and interviewing fishermen. Chief Scientist Scott Ferguson hopes to support Guam and the CNMI in monitoring their natural resources using non-extractive methods. The ship will also use multibeam sonar to map areas that are important fishery resources hopefully to include Galvez Bank, offshore slopes near Rota, and the banks of Farallon de Medinilla.

The survey methods include BotCams and BRUVs, two systems that put baited cameras on the bottom, and a TOAD which is a camera towed near the seafloor . An Autonomous Underwater Vehicle will travel on its own via computer programming and bring back photographs and video. Additionally, acoustic methods will be used to survey fish in the water column.

This expedition brings together scientists from NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and Northwest Fisheries Science Center, as well as the University of Hawaii’s Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, the University of Guam Marine Lab, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Daily Routine

Sparky cutting bait

The days are settling into a routine. As the sun rises, the multibean sonar is lifted and secured or Eric turns off the echo sounder he uses for locating schools of fish. By 7:30 A.M., the camera teams are ready with the 2 BotCams and 8 BRUVs. The deployment depths have been determined so each rig is set with the appropriate length of line. The camera batteries have been charged over night (10 rigs make for a total of 20 cameras). The bait has been cut and stuffed into the bait bags. Deployment of all 10 sets takes about 1.5 hours. Each set of cameras runs for just over an hour so as soon as the last cameras are deployed, the first are ready to be retrieved. Retrieval is more time consuming. Each camera set is marked by 2 orange buoys. The ship must approach with the buoys on the lee side (sheltered from the wind ). A crew member then throws a line with a big 4-pronged hook to snag the line between the buoys. If the ship is too close, it runs over the buoys―too far away and they have to come around for another try which can take up to 30 minutes. Generally, the morning cameras are back on board in time for lunch. Afternoons are a repeat of the morning and the cameras are back on board just in time for dinner.

Mills with a mahi mahi

We have a couple of fishing enthusiasts on board. They put out troll lines whenever they get the chance, usually at sunrise or sunset when the captain kicks up the speed to about 10 knots to reach the next study location. There has not been much time for fishing but we have eaten a few mahi mahi. This makes everyone happy―the fishermen of course, and the rest of us for the fillets.

Night time operations with the AUV

After dinner, the AUV team prepares the vehicle for deployment. The AUV is the most time consuming project. They spend hours with the electronics and hours more getting it ready to go underwater. When the communications work, the AUV follows a pre-programmed path about 4 hours in duration. When communications cannot be established, they have to bring it back on board and try again the next night. They have been so busy that we have not yet been able to see their pictures. Soon, I hope. It will be interesting to see the differences between daylight and night time activities on the sea floor.


Shark Feet said...

Hey Ms. Tatreau..
I'm glad to see that the AUV was finally out in the water. I guess third times the charm. :] What part did you play in releasing the AUV out?
Angel -5

Hi Angelfish,
Yes, the third time was perfect, but last night they couldn’t get communication and they had to bring it back on the ship. The time wasn’t wasted though, the multibeam sonar was quickly lowered into the water and the team mapped a small, un-named bank near Galvez. They got done just as the sun was rising and the camera crews were ready to put the cameras in the water. Not a minute goes by without someone working on something. For the AUV work, I just watch. They have a lot of people on their team. I haven’t had much in the way of work, but I have sorted lines, cut bait and logged some info into the computers. It’s all fun, even when I’m just watching.

Shark Feet said...

The activity on this blog is amazing!
Im glad to see such curious students and followers of Fish 250. I just found out that a friend of mine is out there with you, His name is Eric, and I think hes with UH Manoa. How I wish I could be out there in the ocean on a mission like that. I can only imagine the fun I would have Photographing all thats going on and the beauty of the sea and its studies. Everyone on that ship is truely on a vacation cruise.

Hey Ray,
Thanks for writing and thanks for your help getting blog started. Eric is in charge of the EK60 echo-sounder. He is currently working with the University of Guam Marine Lab. Most of his survey work is being done at night. I offered to help, but he says it is pretty much a one-man operation. I have asked questions about it, but I still have a lot to learn. Using acoustic data for fish surveys is relatively new. Mostly the echo-sounders are used by fishermen.

Shark Feet said...

Wow, mahi mahi is a big fish. How did it taste like? Of course it tastes like a fish,hehe, but is it good? Oh and the bait was also a fish o.0 Hope to see the night pictures soon.

Hi Ritz,
The fishermen say the mahi mahi they are catching right now are small. The smallest fish are thrown back so they can live to reach adulthood. Some get injured during the catch and those are kept. The bait fish are small. We chop and smash them so they will ooze a good smell from the bait bags and attract a lot of fish to the cameras.

Shark Feet said...

Hi Ms. Tatreau!
Having great fun on your trip? Oh and I can see that its been REAL busy on the ship with the AUV and all the other very expensive equipment the crew is using! It sounds exciting! Oh and have you been able to see the pictures in the night time operations with the AUV yet?

Hi Micah,
You know I am having great fun. Just being at sea is super for me. On top of that, the ship’s crew is totally friendly and the science team is enthusiastic and always willing to answer my questions. Then the science―I am learning so much. The AUV people tell me they haven’t seen much fish activity at night. They have only glanced at the pictures. Maybe there are active fish but, if there are, they seem to be camera shy. I haven’t seen the pictures from the AUV yet.

Shark Feet said...

Hey Ms. Tatreau.. Wow your trip sounds fun. I hope your having a good time. The crew must really work hard on doing all those things. really time consuming. Its been a week since your trip. So, whats your highlight on the trip so far?
:) Ashley-5

Hi Ashley,
Both crews, the science crew and the ship’s crew, work long hours. Some of the ship’s crew work all day deploying and retrieving the baited cameras and then came back at night to do the same with the AUV. I guess I’m the only slacker on board. I’m always willing to help. Today I spent two hours chopping bait. After it’s chopped, it has to be squished so the guts will ooze out and give good smells to the fish. That is an odd job for a vegetarian. The highlight? That’s the hardest question I’ve been asked. I’ve given this a lot of thought, but I can’t come up with just one incidence. Everything has been so new and educational that it’s all one big highlight. At the top of the list, I guess I’ll put meeting 40 new friends and learning from every single one of them.

Shark Feet said...

Hey there Ms. Tatreau,
The expedition sounds so interesting. I was wondering how expensive are all of the equipment. Also, have any rare fish or fish known to man but not logged down in the area been found? How exactly are the fish identified? Are they just watched on a screen?
Are there going to be any new procedures to be carried out throughout the duration of the trip now that it seems everyone is getting into their daily routines?
Anyways, hope you're having fun on the trip and I hope it doesn't get too repetitive as the days go by.

Hi Tito,
That’s the first time this trip I’ve been asked about the cost. Hold on to your socks:
The ship $20,000/day
BotCam $25,000
BRUV 5,000
Multibeam 400,000 plus 20,000for the pole and mounting it to the ship
TOAD 50,000
AUV 375,000

The fish are identified visually from the pictures. There is a computer program that helps with the counts. If you count all the fish in all the pictures, you will obviously count the same fish more than once. The computer program picks the picture with the most fish, and that is the number that becomes data. Currently, we have not found unknown, rare or unexpected fish. There are hours of video that will not be analyzed until the scientists are back in the lab. The baited cameras alone are getting 20 hours of video each day. There may yet be surprises.

Shark Feet said...

Hey Mrs.Tatreau,
the trip looks like lots of fun!! what was the most intresting thing you've done or seen so far on your trip??

Hi Edwin,
Good to hear from you. Ashley asked the same question. You can read my reply on this same page. That sounds like an easy question, but it was next to impossible to answer.