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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Tuesday, December 10, 2019: Well, what should we talk about?

Part of baleen whale mouth washes up in Beach Haven. By the by, technical/legally you can't own this. The accompanying odor after a while would likely make that point moot. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019: Well, what should we talk about? Oh, that’s right, this is a blog, which means I talk out loud to myself ... with no men-in-white-coats ramifications.

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Cellphones are the greatest thing to ever happen to people with a phycological condition marked by talking to one’s self. Merely 20 years ago, you walk around, say Walmart, talking away, people would grab their children and steer clear of you. Nowadays, out-loud self-speak won’t garner so much as a passing glance unless your secret psychosis has you saying, “I’m going into the next aisle over, getting naked and pretending I’m a vulture.” Which will get folks like me nonchalantly drifting over to that aisle, clicking my cellphone into video mode -- until I realzie that was a big mistake. 

So I just walk away ... disgusted.

Face it, our world gets weirder very day. Which brings us back to fishing.

There are still plenty of small stripers scooting about, more often further out than in close, though I have it on good authority that plastics, eels and bait can still best the small stuff. I’ll again be giving plugs a go since I’m closing in on my only vacation days of the year. While they don't begin until next week, I need to loosen up for them.

I’m dedicated to following my own lead by nabbing an 28-inch bass for Christmas.

The weather continues to play un-nice. The expected yo-yo swings in temps is going full-bore. We will see toay’s 60 degrees falling to tomorrows snow. Then it's back up into the near-60s by week’s end. This swing-a-ding weather thing will not be stopping any time soon. Perish the thought of a white Christmas, unless the big day happens to fall on one of those down days, temp-wise. There is no lack of stormage to keep it wet and interesting.

Clams will flow freely this vacation. I’m set to make some forays back to the way-back mudflats, needing some good exercise to go with those clam chowder batches I’ve been making for the last few weeks.

I have made a partial list of some gifts well worth giving. Here’s a few that can be mail-ordered or bought from local shops.

Goose down hoody. This present can act as “the big one” when gift-giving one of those multi-gift person. There truly isn’t a cheap down hoody. It’s one of those things outdoorspersons often won’t buy themselves, leaving an often hard-to-find what-can-I-get opening.

Women's PrimaLoft Packaway Hooded Jacket Black Large | L.L.Bean

As to functionality, down hoodies rock – down to way below zero. Oddly, they are not overly warm in less than frigid temps. While often looking a bit puffed up, down hoodies are nonetheless exceptional when it comes to allowing move freely. During my winter camping days, it was great to sleep in. See outdoorgearlab.com/topics/clothing-mens/best-down-jacket. Patagonia uses reclaimed down feathers so nothing new is plucked.

Once again this year, extreme cameras of a GoPro ilk are a top seller. They remain a sure-shot winner on opening day. I realize the initial reaction to extreme action cams is “Been there, done that.” Not so fast. Many/most action cam aficionados would love a second camera -- or is due for a new updated model. It’s as close to a can’t-fail gift, providing it is insightfully purchased.

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Whereas GoPro deservedly owns the eye of many buyers, a goodly number of gifted imitators are arriving, many with abilities dang close to the quality of the original, though not always at a better price. New names include DJI Osmo Action, Sony RX0, TomTom Bandit, among many others. With crappy knockoffs also entering the market, it comes down to caveat emptor. Face it, anything under $200 is instantly suspect. Those $59.99 China specials will infuriate. Not only are they of piss-poor all-around quality but come with no achievable returnability or even understandable documentation, like manuals. Many consumer websites and YouTube videos offer detailed comparison of better action cams.

Trick: Always (!) get an extra battery or two, which are sometimes cheapest when included in the original purchase.

Oddly interesting gifts: DNA Search Kits are hot again this year, like ancestry.com. It’s a fun thing, although it has some tricky aspects. Stories are popping up of kids in the same family coming up with differing heritages. I won’t get into what that might mean.

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Sticking with the fun and ancestrally interesting side of a DNA search kit, it’s amazing how many hand-me-down family bloodline stories get debunked.

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The downside to this gift is the often very lengthy wait for results. That goes with the complex DNA-interpreting territory. The upside is the steadily increasing genealogical data base being established as more and more tests contribute. DNA test can now offer very odd tendencies – very odd like one’s urine tendencies based on bloodline. WTF?! I know, right?

Always tricky to buy but equally appreciated when received are boots, talking real boots, upper end brands. There’s a reason the best boots can hike up the price. Better boots are always being scientifically and ergonomically tweaked and improved. These aren’t your dad’s boots any longer. They’re also no longer $29.99. In fact, that amount will cover the tax on designer boots.

The tricky part of buying boots is the sizing. One would think that advancements in footwear would include a greater consistency in sizing accuracy. Perish the thought. I’ve found my 10.5 comes in assorted sizes. The odds of instant size success -- when needing to buy based on a recipient’s known size -- is maybe 75 percent … or less. When dealing with half-sizes, there’s a better chance of going to the next whole size up. My best boots ever came via the mail and, discouragingly, felt slightly tight. I did the old trick of taking a hike wearing two pairs of fat socks. After a single walk-about, they fit perfectly when I down-socked.

As to what to look for in a boot, when dishing out well over $150, you need to interpret the needs of the recipient. While you’re at it, add what you find cool in footwear look and comfort.

Trick: For hardcore hikers and outdoors types, side zippers are an ideal feature.

Buying locally for an easier exchange is the way to go. Going cyber can be a boom and a bust, based on the retailer. I have great luck with LL Bean, though several Amazon-backed/shipped companies have been a breeze when it comes to returns and turn-around time.

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Jersey Shore calendar honors all the idiots whose cars get stuck in the sand

Capt. Andy Grossman, owner of RipTide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine, created a Beached Cars of Brigantine calendar, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Capt. Andy Grossman knows a good idea when he sees it. A few years back, Grossman, the owner of RipTide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine, created a beach tow membership service for 4x4s that run into trouble on the sometimes all-too-soft sand on the beach.

And that is what led to his next great idea: the Beached Cars of Brigantine calendar, featuring photos of some of the "mishaps" when people try to drive their non-4x4 vehicles out to the water's edge.

"Cars are not allowed on the beach," said Grossman. "That's why I kinda think they're fair game and I've been posting them (on Facebook)."

Capt. Andy Grossman, owner of RipTide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine, poses with the Beached Cars of Brigantine calendar he created, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Grossman also offers a beach tow service, Brigantine Beach 4x4 Assist. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Before helping them get off the beach, Grossman or a member of his Brigantine Beach 4x4 Assist crew takes a photo, and locals usually get a good laugh out of it.

"I joke, 'oh there's another one for the calendar,'" said Grossman. "Somebody just said 'you should do it' and I said, 'you know what, I'm going to do it."

He sold out the first run in just a few hours, and is now taking orders for more.

"Now I have a list," he said. "People are going crazy."

Capt. Andy Grossman, owner of RipTide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine, created a Beached Cars of Brigantine calendar, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

The calendar comes in two sizes: 8 1/2 x 11 inches for $25 and 6 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches for $20; it's an additional $5 to have it shipped. The proceeds are being donated to True Spirit Coalition, a local organization which helps provide meals to local families.

"We're not making any profit on it, so it's a good thing," said Grossman. "People are laughing, people are loving it, we're raising money. I feel kinda bad for the people that are on it, but as long as you're donating (the proceeds), they've got to be able to laugh at themselves. They know they did something stupid, and it's a way to help out."

If you'd like to order one, be sure to get your order in before the end of the year, as the tackle shop is closed in January and February. For more information, call (609) 264-0440.

Scroll below for more images of the Beached Cars of Brigantine calendar.

July's featured beached car in the Beached Cars of Brigantine calendar. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

A smaller calendar, 6.5 inches x 8.5 inches, is also available. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Capt. Andy Grossman, owner of RipTide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine, takes a phone order for the Beached Cars of Brigantine calendar he created, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Grossman also offers a beach tow service, Brigantine Beach 4x4 Assist. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

December's featured beached car in the Beached Cars of Brigantine calendar. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

January's featured beached car in the Beached Cars of Brigantine calendar. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

April's featured beached car in the Beached Cars of Brigantine calendar. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

May's featured beached car in the Beached Cars of Brigantine calendar. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

New Jersey Maritime Museum
A great catch by Beach Haven's own, Mel Darconte!
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We finished 2019 off with a bang. Good action all day. Mostly shorts, but everyone had a bonus fish and we had 3 fish over 28 inches.

We winterized the boat this afternoon and made our annual to do list for the winter. It’s time to relax for a little while and enjoy the holidays. We’d like to thank everyone who has sailed with us this year. See you in 2020!

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Global Temperature Trends From 2500 B.C. To 2040 A.D.

By Climatologist Cliff Harris and Meteorologist Randy Mann
Article and Chart Updated: 
March 10, 2018

Until late 2006, global temperatures were more than a degree Fahrenheit warmer when compared to the 20th Century average. From August of 2007 through February of 2008, the Earth's mean temperature dropped to near the 20th Century average of 57 degrees. Since that time, land and ocean readings have rebounded to the highest levels in recorded history in 2016 with a temperature of 58.69 degrees Fahrenheit. For 2017, the global temperature was 58.51 degrees Fahrenheit.

We, Climatologist Cliff Harris and Meteorologist Randy Mann, believe in rather frequent climate changes in our global weather patterns. Geologic evidence shows our climate has been changing over millions of years. The warming and cooling of global temperatures are likely the result of long-term climatic cycles, solar activity, sea-surface temperature patterns and more. However, Mankind's activities of the burning of fossil fuels, massive deforestations, the replacing of grassy surfaces with asphalt and concrete, the "Urban Heat Island Effect" are likely creating more harmful pollution. Yes, we believe we should be "going green" whenever and wherever possible.

Our planet seems to be in a cycle of constant change. According to an article by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Climate.gov in August, 2014, our planet likely experienced its hottest weather millions of years ago. One period, which was probably the warmest, was during the Neoproterozic around 600 to 800 million years ago. Approximately 56 million years ago, our planet was in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum as global mean temperatures were estimated as high as 73 degrees Fahrenheit, over 15 degrees above current levels. Ocean sediments and fossils indicate that massive amounts of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere.

By contrast, evidence shows there have been at least five major ice ages on Planet Earth. One of the most well-documented and largest, occurred from 850 to 630 million years ago, is called the Cryogenian period. Glacial ice sheets likely reached all the way the equator producing a "Snowball Earth." Scientists believe that this massive ice age ended due to increased underground volcanic activity and, perhaps, a much warmer solar cycle.

One reason scientists believe that the Earth's temperature reached a record level in 2016 was the very strong El Nino in the waters of the south-central Pacific Ocean that formed in 2015. El Nino is the abnormal warming of ocean waters that often leads warmer air temperatures and less snowfall during the winter seasons.

In 2007-08, a moderately strong La Nina, the cooler than normal sea-surface temperature event, combined with extremely low solar activity (storms on the sun), resulted in a period of global cooling and record snowfalls across many parts of the northern U.S., Europe, Asia and the Former Soviet Union. The same type of situation, perhaps more severe, could occur again in the early 2020s, especially if we see a strong La Nina combined with very low solar activity.

Climate scientists are not completely certain why ocean waters suddenly warm up and cool down over a period of months or years. The warming of sea-surface temperatures may be due, at least in part, to increased underwater volcanic activity.  Researchers are constantly finding new active underwater volcanoes and thermal vents that may be contributing to the warmer temperatures.

Recently, scientists discovered at least three to six times more heat-spewing thermal vents along the seafloors where tectonic plates are pulling apart. In 2003, at least nine hydrothermal vents along the Gakkel Ridge in the Arctic Ocean were found. Arctic ice has been melting at a steady pace in recent years and may be due to the warmer than normal ocean waters. In April 2015, an underwater volcano known as the Axial Seamount, about 300 miles off the coast of Oregon, erupted for a month and added 88 billion gallons of molten rock to the ocean floor.

Since the 1950s, data suggests that ocean temperatures have been getting warmer. According to research at the University of Alabama in 2013, climate models indicate “a natural shift to stronger warm El Nino events in the Pacific Ocean might be responsible for a substantial portion of the global warming recorded during the past 50 years.”

By contrast to the Arctic ice melt, glaciers have been thickening in Antarctica's eastern interior. That portion of the continent was experiencing increased snowfall and had a gain of about 100 billion tons of ice per year from 1991 to 2008. But, there has been loss of glacier mass in Antarctica's western region.

From the late 1940s through the early 1970s, a climate research organization called the Weather Science Foundation of Crystal Lake, Illinois, determined that the planet's warm, cold, wet and dry periods were the result of alternating short-term and long-term climatic cycles. These researchers and scientists also concluded that the Earth's ever-changing climate likewise has influenced global and regional economies, human and animal migrations, science, religion and the arts as well as shifting forms of government and strength of leadership.

Much of this data was based upon thousands of hours of research done by Dr. Raymond H. Wheeler and his associates during the 1930s and 1940s at the University of Kansas. Dr. Wheeler was well-known for his discovery of various climate cycles, including his highly-regarded "510-Year Drought Clock" that he detailed at the end of the "Dust Bowl" era in the late 1930s.

One of the most recent cold periods was "The Little Ice Age," a 500-Year plus span that extended from the early 1300s to the mid 1800s. During that time, there was little solar activity, or solar storms, which scientists refer to as the “Maunder Minimum.” There were also numerous volcanic eruptions in the 1800s like Krakatoa and Mt. Tambora. In 1815, Mt. Tambora has a major eruption which was the largest recorded one in human history. The explosion sent thousands of tons of ash and dust into the atmosphere resulting in the lowering of Earth's temperature by several degrees and numerous extremes. The event also led to a "year without a summer" in 1816 across parts of northern Europe and U.S. as snow was reported in each month of the year, including the summer season.

During the early 1970s, our planet was in the midst of a colder and drier weather cycle that led to concerns of another "Little Ice Age." Inflationary recessions and oil shortages led to rationing and long gas lines at service stations worldwide. Since that time, global temperatures have steadily climbed to the levels they are today. But, there were several interruptions of this global warming cycle. In June, 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines leading a temporary drop of about one degree of the Earth's average temperature. In the late 2000s, a strong La Nina and very low solar activity helped to send our planet's average temperature down to near the 20th Century average of 57 degrees before rebounding in the early 2010s.

The Weather Science Foundation also predicted, based on these various climate cycles, that our planet would turn much warmer and wetter by the early 2000s, resulting in general global prosperity. They also said that we would be seeing widespread weather "extremes." There's little doubt that most of their early predictions came true.

In 2016 alone, data from NOAA shows that over 200,000 heat, cold and precipitation records were broken across the globe. Nearly 60 percent of the records were warm, about 28 percent were precipitation and snow and the rest were cold. However, in early 2017, some of the coldest weather in recorded history was seen across northern U.S., Europe, Asia and Siberia in Russia where one station in early January 2017 went to -81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dr. Wheeler also discovered that approximately every 102 years, a much warmer and drier climatic cycle affects our planet. The last such "warm and dry" peak occurred in 1936, at the end of the infamous "Dust Bowl" period. During that time, extreme heat and dryness, combined with a multitude of problems during the "Great Depression," made living conditions practically intolerable.

Assuming we get a new and very strong cooler La Nina sea-surface temperature pattern along with extremely low solar activity, we may see a brief cool down of the Earth's temperature around the early 2020s. The next “warm and dry” climatic phase is scheduled to arrive in the early 2030s, probably peaking around 2038. It's quite possible we could see an average global temperature near 60 degrees, assuming there isn't a major volcanic eruption to disrupt this cycle.

Based on current data, this new warmer cycle could produce even hotter and drier weather patterns than we saw during the late 1990s and early 2000s. We also believe that our prolonged cycle of wide weather “extremes,” the worst in at least 1,000 years, will continue and perhaps become more severe in the years to come.

We should remember, that the Earth's coldest periods have usually followed excessive warmth. Such was the case when our planet moved from the Medieval Warm Period between 900 and 1300 A.D. to the sudden “Little Ice Age,” which peaked in the 17th Century. Since 2,500 B.C., there have been at least 78 major climate changes worldwide, including two major changes in just the past 40 years. In terms of upcoming cooling and warming periods, only time will tell.

Global temperature chart was complied by Climatologist Cliff Harris that combined the following resources:
"Climate and the Affairs of Men" by Dr. Iben Browing.
"Climate...The Key to Understanding Business Cycles...The Raymond H. Wheeler Papers. By Michael Zahorchak
Weather Science Foundation Papers in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Will Old Bones Tell Tales?

November 18, 2019

Archeologists studying Smuttynose Island in the Gulf of Maine uncovered the remnants of cod and other fish deposited by one of colonial America’s first fishing stations. Researchers are using these fish parts to learn more about fish and the ocean they lived in nearly 350 years ago.

Sorting colonial-era Smuttynose earbones at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s age and growth lab. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

Northeast Fisheries Science Center researchers are engaged in a multi-year effort to create the information needed to maintain viable fisheries in a warming world ocean. Projects are underway to improve stock assessments, modeling, and surveys, and to understand the vulnerabilities of coastal communities to climate change. 

One of these projects looks at today’s cod in a warming Gulf of Maine through the lens of a similar time more than 300 years ago, when there was rapid ocean warming after the “little ice age” of the 1500s. Researchers are using fish parts gathered from a recent archaeological excavation of the Smuttynose Island fish station.

The fish parts date from 1640 to 1708, when the Smuttynose fish station was most active. The best-represented years are about 1640 to 1660. This was a time of intense harvest in the developing fishery during rapid ocean warming that is similar to what is happening in the Gulf of Maine today. 

Examining these old fish parts may reveal how cod responded to intense fishing and warming in the 17th century. It will help us better project outcomes for Atlantic cod in the future.

Smuttynose Once Ruled the Cod Trade 

Smuttynose is one of several islands in the Isles of Shoals, which straddle what are now state waters off New Hampshire and Maine. Its earliest colonial residents arrived in the early 1600s from Ireland and the south of England for one reason. They wanted to strike it rich in what is sometimes called the “cod rush.” 

Although the island was eventually part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the men—and only men, as women were outlawed in the early days—of Smuttynose were ruthlessly independent. They kept colonial authorities on both sides of the Atlantic at arm’s length. They stayed out of the triangle trades that handled fish from most of the colonies. 

This worked because they had a superior product. Smuttynose cod commanded three to four times the price of salt cod from other colonial stations. Their influence was such that they often set the salt cod price for global competitors in the years before the American Revolutionary War.  

When processing fish, the unneeded parts were thrown out the “trash door” of the processing house. The result was a pile of fish heads and bones, not to mention pottery pieces, pipe stems, and other objects.  

Enter Dr. Nathan Hamilton, associate professor of archaeology at the University of Southern Maine. Hamilton first uncovered remnants of the Smuttynose fishing station in 2008, finding layers of fish bones and other artifacts. He used them to date the excavated layers back to the 1600s.  

Among the fish parts were otoliths—a small, hard structure that floats in the ear canal just under the brain. This summer, scientists at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center examined some of the otoliths left behind by the men of Smuttynose Island.

Present-day cod otoliths and their 17th century counterparts. The older samples are the remaining portion of otoliths shown in the red boxes on the modern otoliths. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

What’s the Species?

All bony fish like cod have three pairs of otoliths. The name comes from the ancient Greek “oto” (ear) and lith (“stone”). They are often called earbones, even though technically they aren’t bones. These free-floating calcium carbonate structures help with balance and hearing. To age a fish, researchers use the largest of the three pairs of otoliths, called the sagitta. 

Cornell professor Willy Bemis brought the otoliths to the science center lab, and the agers set about the first part of their work—examining each one and assigning it to a species. Most were from haddock and cod with a few pollock, a couple of red or white hake, and one cusk. 

Despite their age, quite a few retained many of their identifying features. Looking through the dirt and erosion, the similarities between the older otoliths and present day samples were surprisingly easy to spot. Many could be identified to species, and even the heavily weathered ones could still be identified to family—the Gadidae.  

Time to Age

After the otolith species were identified, several from cod were pulled aside. We wanted to see if the growth rings were intact enough to determine the age of fish from which they came. After all this time, the annual growth rings still had a fairly strong presence and could be confidently aged by cod-aging expert Nina Shepherd. The ages from this sample set ranged from 5 to 12 years old.  

Why Is This Research Important? 

A warming ocean is causing ecosystem change throughout the Northwest Atlantic, including the Gulf of Maine. This work fills important data gaps on demographics of groundfish species before the stock depletion of the modern era. Understanding these species’ responses to prior changes in climate and fishing can provide a way to compare current conditions with those of the past. It will also help us better understand the underlying drivers of change today.

How old a fish lives to be and when it starts to reproduce are important pieces of a larger puzzle that allow us to manage our fisheries. After aging the Smuttynose cod samples, we can see that some lived to be 12 years old back in the 1600s. That doesn’t mean that fish only lived for 12 years back then, but we now have some physical evidence of the historical stock’s age structure.

Cross-section of a 17th century cod otolith from Smuttynose Island. Each red dot is on a growth ring, one for each of the 8 years this fish lived. Photo: Courtesy Karin Limburg.

By looking at patterns within the otolith, we can determine how fast the fish grew and when it started reproducing. That information will be compared to today’s cod to see how growth and the size and age at maturity have changed. 

The cross-section (right) shows 5 or 6 wide growth bands followed by 2 to 3 smaller growth bands. This suggests this individual matured at 5 to 6 years of age since growth slows after maturity.  In contrast, today’s cod in the region typically mature at 2 to 3 years of age. 

What’s Next?

Age and growth work at NOAA Fisheries is ongoing. Karin Limburg from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry is also examining the chemical composition of some of the otoliths. These parts still retain many of the chemical constituents that were incorporated into them while the fish was alive.  

Preliminary analyses suggest that not all Smuttynose cod had the same behaviors. Some appear to have been fairly stationary, while others appear to have made annual onshore-offshore migrations. Chemical composition may also reveal information on water salinity, ambient temperatures, and oxygen concentration. 

Micro-milling of otoliths along growth bands may allow seasonal estimates of water temperatures the cod experience. They could also provide additional insights into the temperatures in the Gulf of Maine during the 1600s.  

These samples may also reveal the effects of size-selective fishing—retaining certain-sized fish and discarding others—on cod over the past few centuries. This could help disentangle the relative effects of environmental conditions and selective fishing on the growth rates and maturation of cod in the Gulf of Maine. This is an important question for today's fishery and fishery management. 

Storms Punctuated by Beautiful Weather Mark Completion of Fall Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

November 08, 2019

Poor weather did not deter the work at hand as researchers complete sampling, monitoring, and a few new research projects on the Northeast U.S. continental shelf.

The CTD Niskin bottle water sampler collects water at various depths. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

One way to sum up the conditions on the fall ecosystem monitoring survey would be say it was plagued by storms punctuated with brief periods of beautiful weather! 

Fall is traditionally the worst time of the year for working offshore, and this cruise has certainly lived up to that prediction. Despite that, the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter has done a remarkable job, eking out a complete survey of the continental shelf waters from Cape Hatteras through southern New England and Georges Bank. 

Only the Gulf of Maine has not been covered fully, although now, on the last days of our survey, we are reaching some of the more important stations along its southern boundary, namely the Northeast Channel, Wilkinson Basin, and some inshore western stations off of Boston, prior to returning to our homeport via the Cape Cod Canal. Storm systems continue to pursue us, with the command working out the best arrival time to avoid difficulties in docking on November 1 at Pier 2 at the Newport Naval Station in Rhode Island.  

Scientific staff on the Gordon Gunter fall 2019 ecosystem monitoring survey. Several researchers had never been offshore before, making the cruise even more memorable. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

As mentioned in earlier updates, on this cruise we've gone beyond our typical monitoring of oceanographic conditions, zooplankton abundance and distribution, and marine mammal and seabird documentation. Thanks to collaborators from our science center's Milford Lab, the University of Rhode Island, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the University of Connecticut, new directions now include studies of phytoplankton, seawater optical properties, and analyses of methylmercury and environmental DNA. 

Seawater taken from a number of fixed sites on the continental shelf provided researchers onboard with samples that will be analyzed onshore. Despite the fact that several of these scientists have never been offshore, they have done a yeoman's job of patiently filtering many liters of seawater under often very uncomfortable conditions. To paraphrase one of the scientific staff: "Never have so many filtered so much seawater aboard this vessel!"  

The ship's crew aboard the Gordon Gunter held a pumpkin carving contest to celebrate Halloween. This winner was created by scientists Tamara Holzwarth Davis, Yuan Liu and Virginie Sonnet. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

All of this sampling has been accomplished with the support of the vessel and its crew. The science group would like to extend its thanks and appreciation, first of all, for the vessel itself! The NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter was built as a naval surveillance vessel, but NOAA has done a good job of retrofitting it for oceanographic research. 

Making it work is the responsibility of the command and crew, who have cheerfully worked with us to get our gear safely over the side and back, to get us to as many stations as possible, and to make us all feel comfortable and at home even as the weather conspired to do just the opposite.  

Thank you all very much!  I look forward to being able to sail with you again!

Study: Memories of music cannot be lost to Alzheimer's and dementia

The part of your brain responsible for ASMR catalogs music, and appears to be a stronghold against Alzheimer's and dementia.

The parts of the brain highlighted in red and yellow are thought to control your sense of attention and memory. (image c/o Brain Network Lab)

Some music inspires you to move your feet, some inspires you to get out there and change the world. In any case, and to move hurriedly on to the point of this article, it's fair to say that music moves people in special ways. 

If you're especially into a piece of music, your brain does something called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), which feels to you like a tingling in your brain or scalp. It's nature's own little "buzz", a natural reward, that is described by some as a "head orgasm". Some even think that it explains why people go to church, for example, "feeling the Lord move through you", but that's another article for another time. 

Turns out that ASMR is pretty special. According to a recently published study in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease (catchy name!), the part of your brain responsible for ASMR doesn't get lost to Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's tends to put people into layers of confusion, and the study confirms that music can sometimes actually lift people out of the Alzheimer's haze and bring them back to (at least a semblance of) normality... if only for a short while. ASMR is powerful stuff! 

This phenomenon has been observed several times but rarely studied properly. One of the most famous examples of this is the story of Henry, who comes out of dementia while listening to songs from his youth:  

Our volunteers are just like the mailman, no bad weather stops them! 650 shellbags created today.

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Sea Shepherd Launching Web Series to Document Efforts to Save Endangered Vaquita

Sea Shepherd, the international non-profit marine wildlife conservation organization, is launching a web series to document their fight to save the critically endangered vaquita.

The organization's web series is based on their Operation Milagro (Operation Miracle) campaign, which focuses on conservation efforts for the vaquita porpoise who inhabit the upper Gulf of California. According to reports, it's believed that fewer than 30 vaquita porpoises remain worldwide, and the species could potentially be extinct as early as 2021. The vaquita population has dwindled due to entanglement in fishing nets from fishermen who set illegal gill nets to catch totoaba fish. The totoaba fish, also an endangered species in the Gulf of California, is sought for their swim bladders, which can fetch up to $100,000 USD in Asian black markets.

Sea Shepherd's fleet – the M/V Farley Mowat, M/Y Sam Simon, M/V White Holly, and M/V Sharpie – have patrolled the Gulf of California since 2015 in order to protect the vaquita. Their efforts to save the endangered marine animal has resulted in numerous attacks over the years. Earlier this year Sea Shepherd released a video of one of their vessels being assaulted by skiffs who were illegally poaching inside the Vaquita Refuge. A month later the organization reported that the M/V Farley Mowat was set on fire by over 50 assailants on a total of 52 skiffs.

You can catch Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro web series every Wednesday beginning December 11.

Photo/ Video Credit: Sea Shepherd

World’s Oceans Are Losing Oxygen Rapidly, Study Finds

Copyright © 2019 The New York Times Company
By Kendra Pierre-Louis
December 9, 2019

The world’s oceans are gasping for breath, a report issued Saturday at the annual global climate talks in Madrid has concluded.

The report represents the combined efforts of 67 scientists from 17 countries and was released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It found that oxygen levels in the world’s oceans declined by roughly 2 percent between 1960 and 2010. The decline, called deoxygenation, is largely attributed to climate change, although other human activities are contributing to the problem. One example is so-called nutrient runoff, when too many nutrients from fertilizers used on farms and lawns wash into waterways.

The decline might not seem significant because, “we’re sort of sitting surrounded by plenty of oxygen and we don’t think small losses of oxygen affect us,” said Dan Laffoley, the principal adviser in the conservation union’s global marine and polar program and an editor of the report. “But if we were to try and go up Mount Everest without oxygen, there would come a point where a 2 percent loss of oxygen in our surroundings would become very significant.”

“The ocean is not uniformly populated with oxygen,” he added. One study in the journal Science, for example, found that water in some parts of the tropics had experienced a 40 to 50 percent reduction in oxygen.

“This is one of the newer classes of impacts to rise into the public awareness,” said Kim Cobb, a climate scientist and director of the global change program at Georgia Tech, who was not involved in the report. “And we see this along the coast of California with these mass fish die-offs as the most dramatic example of this kind of creep of deoxygenation on the coastal ocean.”

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This loss of oxygen in the ocean is significant enough to affect the planetary cycling of elements such as nitrogen and phosphorous which are, “essential for life on Earth,” Dr. Laffoley said.

“What surprised me was that, as oxygen levels lowered, there would be an effect on those cycles,” he added. “We lower these oxygen levels at our peril.”

Deoxygenation is just one of the ways the world’s oceans are under assault. As they absorb carbon dioxide, oceans becomes less basic and more acidic, in some places dissolving the shells of acquatic life like clams, mussels and shrimp in what is sometimes called the “osteoporosis of the sea.”

And, since the middle of last century, oceans have absorbed 93 percent of the heat associated with human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, leading to mass bleaching of coral reefs. Warmer water also takes up more space than cooler water. NASA says that this thermal expansion process has caused roughly a third of existing sea level rise.

According to Dr. Laffoley, if the heat absorbed by the oceans since 1955 had gone into the lower levels of the atmosphere instead, land temperatures would be warmer by 65 degrees Fahrenheit, or 36 degrees Celsius.

Global average temperatures have risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century and the Paris Climate agreement has a target of limiting further increases to below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

But water holds less oxygen by volume than air does. And as ocean temperatures increase, the warmer water can’t hold as much gas, including oxygen, as cooler water. (It’s why soda tends to go flat faster in the hot summer sun.)

Warming temperatures also affect the ability of ocean water to mix, so that the oxygen absorbed on the top layer doesn’t properly get down into the deeper ocean. And what oxygen is available gets used up more quickly because marine life uses more oxygen when temperatures are warmer.

“The ocean is a blue heart on the planet. It’s a majority of the living space on the planet and it’s kind of the center of our life support system,” Dr. Laffoley said. “And I think we need to really look after it because it has been looking after us.”

A recent bottle sale ... 

  OK BITTERS Applied band 1869-71 Here’s a bottle that is rarely seen and just another product of the Henley operation. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to be a fly on the wall when owners Louis Gross, Henley, and Epstein had their brainstorming sessions? It’s interesting that the initials “OK” were first used in the late-1830's. When the Henley group decided to use it, we have to believe they had high hopes of a simple name becoming a household word. When one looks at this bottle, the size of the lettering is really quite unusual although it fits quite well. The curved “R” has got to be the most pronounced of any we’ve seen. Together with the overall whittle and blue aqua, it makes for quite a bottle on your shelf. This is only the second example we have handled or ever seen. Grades a 9.5 ... SOLD $21,000. $ 2$ 21,0001,000  
$ 21,000
  DR. BOERHAAVE’S STOMACH BITTERS with applied tapered top. 1868-69 It’s known that Dr. Boerhaave was a well-known if not famous Dutch chemist, whose name was used to sell this product. The Siegfried Wertheimber and brother Philip, partnered with Louis Waterman, initially to finance the project. How could they lose with a name like “Boerhaaves?” Alas, the partnership dissolved within a year and a half and the bottles that remain are the only evidence the company existed. A San Francisco made bitters, from a distance, they look like a Hostetters, however, the distinctive windows on the reverse, give this bottle its own special identity. This one is a beautiful light to medium green, as these bottles come in a multitude of colors. Another grade 9 early San Francisco bitters from the Ken Fee Collection. SOLD: $28,000.   
$ 28,000

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