Lots of small sand dollars

(NOAA Ship Pisces departed September 21, 2016 in support of the NEFSC’s benthic habitat assessment effort. The cruise is expected to end September 30.)
September 25:
The cruise has gone well so far: great crew, great ship, weather has been good, though not perfect.  All scientists (Ashok, Heather, Erick, DeMond, Delan, Jordan) are healthy and working hard.
We are looking at benthic habitat in the  Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) NY Wind Energy Area (WEA) off the south shore of Long Island along a fine grid of stations, some of which we are also mapping with multibeam lines.  As a piggyback project, we are also collecting samples for microplastic analysis, which has become an issue of considerable interest on the West Coast and in the Chesapeake.
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We had some trouble with the ME70 multibeam sonar early on.  It took 5 hours plus to turn it “on” on Thursday night…very finicky, but it has been working well since.  Learned a lot about that system from the ship’s Survey Tech.  Erick, who is standing the sonar watches with her, is learning even more. Physical sampling has been going well and yielded some surprises.  We have been hitting some sea scallops in the south, which I expected, and have been mapping that same location to provide us with some characterization of sea scallop habitat.  Based on Observer Data, we don’t expect to see them in the northwest part of the WEA.
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We’re getting spotted hake and little skates in almost every trawl (no surprise), and we’ve seen some scup, fluke, windowpane and Gulf Stream flounders, rock crabs and one monkfish. Clyde: lots of sand shrimp everywhere, mostly juveniles.
The big surprise has been overwhelming catches of sand dollars…more like sand dimes: very small, probably newly settled.   We expected to see some, but not in such huge quantities.  However, they are patchy…not at all stations.
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The Manta neuston net (first time we’ve used it) is working well.  It catches for microplastics have yielded a lot of jellyfish, salps, comb jellies, pelagic isopods and some juvenile fish.  These samples will have to be reduced to extract microplastic particles for analysis. Sediment subsamples are also being taken for microplastics from the grabs we are taking for sediment grain size analysis.
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More to come soon!
Vince Guida
Chief Scientist
PC 16-06
NEFSC Benthic Habitat Assessments of Northeast Outer Continental Shelf Ecosystems

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