NEFSC Passive Acoustic Research Group Multi-Recorder Deployment and Recovery Cruise on the R/V Connecticut

NEFSC Cruise Participants: Eric Matzen and Annamaria Izzi

4/18/2016

harps_on_deck

Top: R/V Connecticut‘s deck loaded with 5 HARPs to be deployed. Bottom: Sunset at Avery Point, CT. Photos by Annamaria Izzi, NEFSC/NOAA

After days of preparation, of making sure we crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s, we left Avery Point, Connecticut at 1800 with overcast skies but calm seas. The goal of our trip is to deploy 5 HARPs (High-frequency Acoustic Recording Packages from SCRIPPS), recover 3, and recover, refurbish, and redeploy a noise reference station (NRS, PMEL and Oregon State University). All recorders are off the shelf break, from New Jersey up to the tip of Georges Bank. The HARPS are capable of recording sound from many species including baleen whales, sperm whales, beaked whales, and dolphins. The five that we will be deploying, as well as the three that were out, are part of the Shelf Break Acoustic Ecology project, which includes a total of 8 HARPs spanning Georges Bank to Florida. This is a combined effort of the Northeast and Southeast Fisheries Science Centers to understand biological activity along the shelf break before the planned seismic exploration starts off the United States’ eastern seaboard. The NRS serves a slightly different purpose, to listen to and characterize the ambient noise in the deep ocean. It is part of a larger project that is being conducted by NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Sanctuaries, and the National Park Service, to compare ocean noise throughout a number of sites within U.S. waters on both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico.

4/19/2016

harp_deployment

Top left: HARP in the Big Apple.  Top right: HARP at the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building. Bottom left: Eric Matzen getting the first HARP ready to be deployed. Bottom right: Eric launching the HARP with the crew of the R/V Connecticut.  Photos by Annamaria Izzi, NEFSC/NOAA

By 0600 we were sailing through NYC. Skyscrapers, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty all greeted us and bade us farewell as we made our way out of New York Harbor. We had traveled down Long Island Sound, hugging the coast for as long as possible before making our way offshore. Today was a day of planning, of outlining how things were going to happen and where we wanted to deploy our units as we made our way full-steam down to the southernmost deployment site. We arrived at the site in the late evening with perfect seas, and dropped it off right where we wanted it without a hitch. Then it was full steam ahead to the next site.

4/20/2016

The sea gods were a bit rough with us at the start. Waves slopping on deck, boat rocking back and forth, a few of us fell prey to the rough conditions. But there were enough of us that despite what the weather threw at us, we still managed to get the second HARP out easily. Later on in the day the winds died down, and with it the whitecaps.  We even managed to find a few pods of common dolphins, which took the opportunity to bow-ride our vessel, as well as some ocean sunfish sunbathing.

4/21/2016

floating_harddrive_removal

Top: HARP floating at the surface after being released from the ocean floor. Bottom: Eric extracting the hard drive data from the recovered HARP. Photos by Annamaria Izzi, NEFSC/NOAA

Today was the first day in which we had to recover an existing HARP, and replace it with a new one. There was an air of excitement (and nervousness) about the vessel as there always is when calling out to an instrument that has been underwater for a year. In order to get the unit to surface, a burn signal is sent that when the release “hears” it, acknowledges and scuttles the weights, allowing the unit to rise to the surface. We all didn’t know how long it would take, and were surprised to see it at the surface in a mere 15 minutes. The unit had been down around 1000 m in depth! We carefully extracted the unit from the water and quickly deployed the new one that was to take its place. With the unit we recovered, we cleaned and pulled its guts out, taking the precious data collected on the hard drives and storing them in static-free bags to be analyzed once back at the lab. If that wasn’t enough of an interesting day, we also came across three sperm whales in which one raised its flukes to go on a deep foraging dive, and the other two were logging at the surface and traveling. Bottlenose dolphins kept us company for most of the day, and we also found a few puffins! The sun was high in the sky, temperatures were warm, the sea state was great, and some of the crew could be found on the deck enjoying the nice weather. Definitely a much needed reprieve from the weather the day before!

4/22/2016

nrs_recovery.jpg

Top left: The crew of the R/V Connecticut spotting the NRS buoy at the surface after its release from the seafloor. Top right and bottom left: Capturing the NRS mooring and bringing it on deck. Bottom right: All of the crew assisting Eric and Annamaria in recovering the 1.67-mile mooring. Photos by Annamaria Izzi, NEFSC/NOAA

The day started out much like the previous one did. We had taken the night to steam up to our northernmost HARP site to arrive just after daybreak for retrieval, which went without a hitch. However that was not the case for the deployment. The HARP that we had selected did not pass the deck tests we conduct before dropping it over; luckily we still had one other HARP on deck. We prepped that one and launched it right where the old one was. We tried to troubleshoot the problematic HARP, but ran out of time as we started to prepare for the NRS mooring that was to be recovered later on that afternoon. That mooring had been like an uneasy weight on everyone’s minds this past week, as it had 1.67 miles of line, not including the hydrophone, float, acoustic release, and anchor. We all referred to it as the “monster buoy”. Due to the skill of the crew and many recovery planning meetings, the entire mooring was up in 5 hours and went so smoothly, even with the building swells! By the time we were done, it was well into dark so we strapped it all down securely on deck to be deployed first thing the following morning. We spent the rest of the night replacing shackles and any other parts that looked to have some wear to make less work for the morning.

4/23/2016

nrs_deployment.jpg

Top left: The newly refurbished NRS mooring. Top right: Annamaria and Eric letting out 1.67 miles of line with assistance from the crew. Bottom left: Annamaria and Eric just before releasing the NRS anchor. Bottom right: cutting the last ropes holding the anchor. Photos by Annamaria Izzi, NEFSC/NOAA

Today was our first overcast day of the trip, but the seas were essentially the same as they had been. We conducted many deployment meetings to make sure that everyone knew what task they needed to perform, and how it was all going to work. By 0700 we were ready to deploy and despite everyone’s trepidation, the deployment went very smoothly, even with towing 1.67 miles of mooring for 5 miles. Including the time it took to tow the mooring behind us, the entire process took half the time it took to recover it. After the deployment, we set to work to ascertain just what was wrong with the last HARP. After a few phone calls to the manufacturers on the West Coast and completely taking apart the internal frame, we were able to solve the problem and get the unit working again. Things were back on schedule to do the recovery of the last HARP that had been in the water, and swapping it with the newly fixed HARP. But the weather kicked up and things weren’t looking very optimistic, which put a damper on our spirits. We decided to hold off the final decision of whether to recover the unit at the bottom until we actually made it to the HARP site. Once there, after a brief planning meeting, and weather check, we decided to go for it. And the decision paid off. We were able to recover and deploy our HARPs, fully completing our mission. By 1800 we were heading home.

 

 

It’s That Time of Year in the Gulf of Maine

More North Atlantic right whales have been sighted by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC)’s aerial survey group in recent days. On April 9, four right whales were seen feeding in surface and subsurface waters during an aerial survey of Stellwagen Bank and Wilkinson Basin in the Gulf of Maine.  In addition, 11 fin whales, 17 humpback whales, 4 minke whales, and 125 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were also sighted during the five-hour flight.

Nine North Atlantic right whales were observed on April 17, with excellent conditions during a neatly six-hour aerial survey of Cashes Ledge in the NOAA Twin Otter. The right whales were sighted in transit, feeding.  Also sighted during the survey were 5 humpback whales, 4 fin whales, 15 sei whales, 3 minke whales, 29 Atlantic white-sided dolphins, and 30 harbor porpoise.

The NEFSC Aerial Survey Group

Retrieving the AMARs, Launching the Buoys

On May 29th, the Henry Bigelow reached the easternmost part of the survey area on the northeastern tip of Georges Bank. We are now continuing our coverage of Georges Bank and will venture into the Gulf of Maine next.

Survey Technician Geoff Shook lowers a transducer over the side to communicate with the submerged Autonomous Multi-channel Acoustic Recorder (AMAR) mooring. Photo by Jerry Prezioso NEFSC / NOAA.

Survey Technician Geoff Shook lowers a transducer over the side to communicate with the submerged Autonomous Multi-channel Acoustic Recorder (AMAR) mooring. Photo by Jerry Prezioso NEFSC / NOAA.

While working our way east along the southern flank of Georges Bank yesterday we made a stop at Lydonia Canyon to retrieve an Autonomous Multi-channel Acoustic Recorder (AMAR) mooring that had been deployed last summer to record whale sounds. With calm seas and sunny skies (but a fog bank on the horizon to add some drama) the retrieval went very smoothly. The ship pinged the recorder and received signals back indicating its distance from the ship. After maneuvering the ship closer to the mooring, a release signal was sent, and the recorder popped to the surface ten minutes later.

AMAR unit on the surface after being released from its mooring on the seafloor. The yellow container has part of the unit inside while the red floats are supporting another component beneath them. Photo by Jerry Prezioso NEFSC / NOAA.

AMAR unit on the surface after being released from its mooring on the seafloor. The yellow container has part of the unit inside while the red floats are supporting another component beneath them. Photo by Jerry Prezioso NEFSC / NOAA.

After being spotted by our sharp-eyed WHOI scientist Emily Peacock, the command and crew worked together to reposition the vessel and scoop the recorder unit and two glass buoyancy floats from the water. The entire process took no more than two hours.

Retrieval of the AMAR unit on the port side of the Henry Bigelow, Photo by Jerry Prezioso NEFSC / NOAA

Retrieval of the AMAR unit on the port side of the Henry Bigelow, Photo by Jerry Prezioso NEFSC / NOAA

This morning our NOAA Teacher-at-Sea, DJ Kast, launched two artistically decorated drifter buoys as part of the NOAA Global Drifter Buoy Program. Equipped with a thermistor, an ARGOS satellite tracking system, and a transmitter, the buoy will send out its location and water temperature for over a year (about 410 days) before its batteries die out. A cylindrical drogue attached to a surface float that the teacher and students decorated will cause the buoy to be moved about by surface currents, not wind gusts on the float.

NOAA Teacher-at-Sea DJ Kast deploying the St. Joseph School buoy while we are on the northeast peak of Georges Bank. Photo by Jerry Prezioso NEFSC / NOAA.

NOAA Teacher-at-Sea DJ Kast deploying the St. Joseph School buoy while we are on the northeast peak of Georges Bank. Photo by Jerry Prezioso NEFSC / NOAA.

Students from a variety of public schools associated with a University of Southern California program and one parochial school, St. Josephs in Fairhaven, MA, will be looking online to follow the progress of “their” buoys across the ocean!

t. Joseph Elementary School students decorating "their" NOAA buoy prior to the cruise. Photo by Harvey Walsh NEFSC / NOAA.

St. Joseph Elementary School students decorating “their” NOAA buoy prior to the cruise. Photo by Harvey Walsh NEFSC / NOAA.

While on the southern flank of Georges the catches were full of phytoplankton, but now on the northeast peak this has dropped off. The present catches are mostly calanoid copepods and some gelatinous zooplankton, mainly Pleurobranchia ctenophores and an assortment of salps. We are still seeing an occasional Phronima amphipod in its salp shelter too!

Our weather continues to be excellent which has been a real boon to our progress. We are currently heading for the shoal portion of Georges Bank before turning north to sample in the Gulf of Maine, which we will sample to the best of our ability in the time remaining.

Jerry Prezioso, chief scientist

HB1502 Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Sighting an Entangled Humpback

The NEFSC aerial survey group flew more than five hours May 14 to survey Cashes Ledge.  The team sighted an entangled humpback on the first line of the survey, reported it, and and stayed on station until a disentanglement team from the Center for Coastal Studies arrived on the scene. This is the third time the whale, an adult female named Spinnaker, has had an assisted disentanglement.  As Leah Crowe of the aerial team noted, she “is very lucky that all the pieces – area surveyed, people and weather – fell into place to free her.”

entangled humpabck with boat nearby

Entangled humpback whale named Spinnaker sighted by the NEFSC aerial survey group May 14. A disentanglement team stands by.  Heavy fishing gear is puling the whale down,  with a yellow float visible to the right of the whale. Photo by Leah Crowe, NEFSC/NOAA taken under MMPA research permit # 17355.

Shadow of NOAA Twin Otter on surface near Spinnaker

The shadow of the NOAA Twin Otter with the aerial survey team appears on the ocean surface next to Spinnaker. Photo by Leah Crowe, NEFSC/NOAA taken under MMPA research permit # 17355.

close-up of whale trailing float

Closer view of Spinnaker trailing fishing line and a float. Photo by Leah Crowe, NEFSC/NOAA taken under MMPA research permit # 17355.

A second humpback whale, along with 7 fin whales, 8 sei whales, 3 minke whales, 5 harbor porpoise and 3 basking sharks were sighted, along with 4 North Atlantic right whales.

The NEFSC Survey Group

Lumpy and the Respirometer

Good Morning All,
Since our last update on Saturday the Pisces has completed sampling the southwestern Gulf of Maine stations and started working east across the northern flank of Georges Bank and into the eastern Gulf of Maine area. We have just completed sampling at the Northeast Channel and are currently heading for Browns Bank. We have made a few more midwater trawls since last time with the Shallow Water midwater trawl and one with the Isaacs-Kidd midwater trawl. Although the catches have been very small, consisting of a few silver hake and Atlantic herring, we did manage to get a few fish to try out in the respirometer chambers. Some data was collected from the Atlantic herring caught this past weekend. We had one butterfish which didn’t do well in the chamber, but we had better luck with a lumpfish, which is currently still in the chamber and yielding good data.

Researchers hold a respirometer chamber with a herring in it

Chris Taylor, Rich Bell (holding a respirometer chamber with a herring in it) and Grace Saba working to gather some data on the oxygen consumption of an Atlantic herring. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA

“Lumpy”, as he has been christened, even managed to gulp down a shrimp from the holding tank which was still sticking partly out of his mouth when he was transferred to the respirometer. Oxygen consumption data has been gathered from this fish for several hours now, showing a series of classic oxygen consumption curves, when the amount of oxygen in the water is plotted over time. The oxygen level in the chamber with the respiring fish starts at a high level, then drops at a steady rate until freshly oxygenated water is introduced, and the cycle repeats itself, with the rate of decline changing depending on the stress levels of the fish.

Lumpy the lumpfish in a respirometer chamnmbver

“Lumpy” in a respirometer chamber equipped with flowing seawater. If you look closely you’ll see long thin red shrimp spines protruding out from his mouth. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA

oxygen consumption cycles from Lumpy

The oxygen consumption cycles from “Lumpy” showing cycles of oxygen decline over time as seen from a laptop connected to the respirometer. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA

The logistics of the respirometry project have been daunting, but the researchers have met the challenges of plumbing, software, and obtaining viable fish, all while working under typical November sea conditions to start getting some positive results. Pictures of this interesting, on-board experiment will be posted on the nefsc.wordpress.com website. This work has been in addition to the continued collection of plankton samples, hydrographic data, and trawl catch assessments.

With a favorable forecast for the next few days, the Pisces is currently steaming along at between twelve and fourteen knots to cover the Gulf of Maine before the next front is due to hit us later this week. We hope to be in sheltered waters near the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal by then, poised to move on to the southern portion of this survey which will take us to Southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic Bight.

Jerry Prezioso
Chief Scientist
PC1405 Northeast Pelagic-Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Live from Seal Island!

The gray seal pupping cam is back, streaming live video of the gray seal pupping season from Maine’s Seal Island through February 2014. Join NEFSC seal researcher Stephanie Wood Jan. 8 between 1 and 2 p.m. for a live chat at http://explore.org/seals

To learn more about the seal cam and the 2013 gray seal pupping season on Seal Island, visit: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/rcb/news/features/seal_cam/

On the Home Stretch

rosette water sampler Pisces

Crewmen retrieving the rosette water sampler aboard Pisces. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso NOAA/NEFSC)

As the November nor’easter moved swiftly away from us, the Pisces was able to leave Portland, Maine at 2 PM on Friday November 9 and head for the southwest corner of Georges Bank. After about twelve hours of steaming we were back on track to resume our sampling operations that had been interrupted twice by storms. The vessel has achieved some amazing speeds to help make up for the time lost. During our transit from Portland to Georges Bank the Pisces reached speeds of fifteen knots in following seas!

nefsc cruise wave heights nor'easter

Digital imagery from the weather service indicating wave heights from the large nor’easter that interrupted the cruise. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso.)

On the morning of the Veteran’s Day holiday, we worked our way our way west and south across the New York Bight area. Sampling here has been intense, with an increased number of plankton tows and rosette water casts to help ascertain if there have been any changes in this area from the severe pounding it received from two major storms in quick succession. The catches and data haven’t appeared to be unusual to our casual on-board observations, but a post-cruise comparison with our multi-decadal data base will reveal if any significant changes have occurred.

saury half-beak

A saury or half-beak caught at night in one of the bongo nets. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso.)

We are seeing fish larvae and juveniles in many of the samples from the New York Bight, some of them clearly recognizable as flatfish. Some samples have had gelatinous plankton, mainly in the form of occasional medusae and some ctenophores or comb-jellies and salps too, although in far lesser numbers than we had on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine. Bird sightings have dropped off from the more northern parts of the cruise, but the bird observers say that is to be expected for this area.

Holly Goyert flying bridge bird observation

Holly Goyert at her observation post on the flying bridge of the Pisces. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso.)

With our continued good weather and the vessel averaging thirteen to fourteen knots between stations, we are on track to achieving remarkable coverage for this cruise when you factor in the multiple days lost to two major storms. We are scheduled to dock at the Marine Operations Center in Norfolk on Wednesday morning, 14 November. The southernmost portion of the Middle Atlantic Bight will be missed, but the remainder of the survey area has been sampled very thoroughly, due to the efforts of the command and crew who have really made this vessel perform in an outstanding manner. By the time we break off, we will have sampled at 159 stations from as far north as the Bay of Fundy in the Gulf of Maine, and as far east as the northeast peak of Georges Bank.

Pisces CTD NEFSC crew

Tamara Holzwarth-Davis at the CTD computer during a rosette water sampler cast. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso.)

I must give kudos to the personnel of the Pisces for running the ship as fast as prudently possible given the conditions we’ve been faced with and safely squeezing in as many stations as w could before each oncoming storm! The scientific party on here, although few in number, has also made a tremendous effort, given the intensive level of sampling that was asked of them to document possible changes in the New York Bight ecosystem and I thank them for rising to the occasion. This should prove to be a very interesting cruise to analyze!

–Jerry Prezioso  chief scientist for Pisces 12-07 Ecosystem Monitoring Survey