Friday, August 14, 2009:
A few salps washed up on the beach today – a few billion. And I’m fairly serious about that number. White clouds of them washed ashore in ship Bottom and north and south as far as I could see. Just at the end of my street there were millions of this quarter-inch blobs. Today they were so thick you simply couldn’t swim through them. Impossible to grab a breath with them clumping on my face and around my mouth.
While most everyone was calling them baby jellyfish not only are they not babies they’re not even jellyfish. They’re actually more primitive, which is saying a lot if you think about the last conversation you tried to have with a jellyfish. They are thought to be the starting point of vertebrates. You’ll notice we’re vertebrates. That’s an odd addition to the genetic pool.
Each salp is very clear with the exception of a small colorful “brain” area, about half the size of a rice grain.
Salps are tiny filter feeding machines that chow down on planktons, before dying and falling to the ocean bottom. I bring up that dying and sinking part because scientists now believe these primitive creatures play a huge role in taking carbon to the lowest levels of the ocean. That intrigues scientists to the hilt. The rest of it should find it kinda interesting, after factoring in all the talk about carbon footprints and how all life revolves around the workings and whereabouts of carbon.
Anyway, this insane influx of these bumpy and jellyfish-ish creatures – and their comely little brains – is just one of those nature things, brought close to home by onshore winds. Cape May got socked with them during the first week of August. They were gone from there in a flash, getting either blown somewhere else (as in here) or drying up on the beach, which they do rapidly – with little if any smell.
Fluke fishing was decent today, from the gab I heard firsthand and also radio chatter. Fluke seem to be mustering near the inlets. It’s a tad early for the big outward move but a drift by fluke toward the area where mid- and late-summer baitfish gather makes sense. Still, I got word of huge numbers of fluke in the west pat of the bays. Obviously, these are small and can sometimes only offer up a keeper after couple dozen throwbacks.
I published a photo of a youngster with a large largemouth. In response, I got word from a couple fly fishermen who go late-day freshwater fishing this time of year and they’re saying that lunker fishing has been phenomenal. Of course, they get to hit some private lakes but they say that many lakes are seeing some super largemouth. It all comes down to year after year of careful catch-and-release. Unfortunately, pickerel in our local freshwater lakes don’t survive as well as bass, as most anglers are vicious in removing hooks that can’t be easily reached.
Aug 14, 2009 - Could swordfish and U.S. longline tuna fishing get a boost from the Discovery Channel. It could happen.
The Discovery channel premiered their new series, Swords: life on the line on Tuesday Aug. 11th, and claimed the top rating spot for all ad supported cable television that night. The swordfish show was the number 2 show on cable for the entire evening for men age 25 to 54, out pulling even network shows from ABC and CBS in its time slot.
For all television networks and pay cable combined and for all viewers, the show ranked 11th.
These are very good numbers, and if the popularity of the show increases there is a real chance to see a consumption boost as well.
The depiction of the reality of swordfishing and the quirks of the vessels and crew, helps consumers connect the fish in the store counter with actual stories and images, and makes them more likely to buy it.
The original prototype for fishing reality shows, the Deadliest Catch, was the primary factor in a dramatic increase in crab consumption in the U.S. over the past several years. Nothing sells like success, and the show made many consumers want to share the success of the crab fishermen. Here on the East Coast, many swordfishermen - who have seen their industry dwindle despite the fact that its conservation status is excellent, hope the show will get consumers to take another look at fresh swordfish.
The University of New Hampshire issued the following news release:
Sonar has long been vital to our understanding of seafloor features and marine creatures. Now, researchers at the University of New Hampshire are employing new sonar technologies to study imperiled cod populations in New England waters.
'Cod is considered the iconic species of the New England fishery,' says Hunt Howell, UNH professor of zoology. 'There are concerns about their population status, so using acoustic technologies can help researchers learn more about their abundance and habitat preferences.'
Multi-beam sonar has been used to map ocean bottom characteristics, but researchers are now applying the technology to estimate cod abundance and spatial distribution. With funding provided by N.H. Sea Grant, Chris Gurshin, a Ph.D. candidate in zoology at UNH, is working with Howell to demonstrate the advantage of multi-beam sonar over more traditional methods of fisheries stock assessment.
Trawl surveys are typically used to determine fish abundance, but they can be time-consuming and relatively expensive. The data collected are only representative for a discrete point of time and limited to the sampled portion of the ocean bottom, Howell says. Using new acoustic technology allows researchers to cover larger areas at a presumably reduced cost because all the work is conducted remotely, he adds. Acoustic surveys can also eliminate the unintended mortality of fish that occurs during trawling.
Many fish species have a slightly different acoustic 'signature' that distinguishes them from most other marine life and seafloor characteristics. Cod have been acoustically assessed by researchers in Norway and Canada using single beam sonar. Conversely, the multi-beam sonar used by Howell and Gurshin sends out a fan of 160 overlapping acoustic beams into the water column as far as a few hundred meters and provides a more thorough view of the abundance and location of cod.
Currently, there are numerous technological and analytical challenges associated with multi-beam sonar studies because there are many variables that can affect the acoustic estimate of fish abundance.
'When you get a large number of fish in spawning aggregations, for example, they're all heading in different directions,' Howell says. 'There is a lot of overlap so that the acoustic signal returning from them is not going to give you an exact picture because it's reflecting off multiple fish that are hidden behind one another. It's quite challenging.'
Gurshin used the multi-beam sonar to collect data on acoustic backscatter from cod held in underwater pens and in open water. A known number and size of fish were placed in pens near the UNH open ocean aquaculture site and he used the sonar on a boat above to examine their acoustic signature. Gurshin is using these data to develop a statistical relationship that links acoustic backscatter to cod populations.
Howell and Gurshin previously conducted acoustic studies on cod in Ipswich Bay using multi-beam sonar in tandem with a trawling vessel to compare results. Although Gurshin is still analyzing the results, he expects the surveys will match one another closely.
'I'm excited to finish analyzing that data because I think it will prove valuable in describing the spatial distribution of cod during a known spawning event,' Gurshin says.
Howell is currently working with Norwegian scientists to use multi-beam sonar to determine the biomass of fish in their commercial aquaculture pens. Closer to home, one of the newer NOAA research vessels, the R/V Henry B. Bigelow, is equipped with multi-beam sonar that was specifically designed for fisheries research.
'I think it's fair to say that using acoustical data is the future of stock assessments,' Howell says.