Sampling along the Shelf Edge

It is Wednesday at around noon, day 3 of the second leg of the fall groundfish survey aboard the Henry B. Bigelow.  Since the start of this leg, we’ve been working along the shelf edge, completing some deeper water stations while the weather is good.  Earlier today we crossed Hudson Canyon, about 90 miles southeast of New York City (NYC). The water out here is light blue due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. We have seen several pods of dolphins today and the presence of sport fishing boats tells us that there must be tuna around as well.

We are just arriving at our next sampling station. We are in 72m (roughly 225 feet) of water, a little more than 80 miles southeast of NYC.  The noon to midnight watch has just had lunch (or breakfast) and are getting ready to work up their first tow of the day. For the midnight to noon watch, it’s time for bed. For those who are not familiar with our general operations out here, it goes something like this: we get to a station and deploy a CTD to get data on the temperature, depth, and salinity of the water column. On selected stations we also deploy a bongo net to obtain plankton samples. Next, we deploy our trawl for 20 minutes. Once the trawl is back on deck, the catch is moved into our fish processing lab on a conveyor belt, where it is sorted by species and weighed.

Heith Cook in  fish processing lab

Heath Cook (left), Noon to Midnight Watch Chief, overseeing the fish sorting process. (Photo credit: Heidi Marotta)

Individual species are then further sampled for length, and depending on the protocol for the particular species, examined for sex and maturity stage, food habits (i.e. stomach content analysis), and age structure removal. Over the past 2 days we have completed 17 of these stations, and we have a whole lot more to do.

Heidi Marotta, a database expert from the NEFSC, is out here with us on this trip as our FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System) administrator. FSCS is the system we use to electronically enter all of the data from each tow. We have a new version of FSCS out here this fall that is helping to maximize our efficiency when processing the catch. This is Heidi’s first groundfish survey. She is going to be helping me out with this blog in the coming days.

Pete Chase
Chief Scientist
FBTS Leg 2

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