Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef Expedition 2012
Mission Information
 

Monday: May 21, 2012
Log Day 7

Sarah Fangman
ONMS / SEGoM Region
Chief Scientist

Todd Recicar prepares R/V Sam Gray to load departing divers and gear during rough seas

Todd Recicar prepares R/V Sam Gray to load departing divers and gear during rough seas.
(Photo: Debbie Campbell)

Unfortunately the weather on Saturday did not cooperate with us, as we have had 4-6' seas all day, with significant wind, which means no diving operations. Conditions are not safe for deploying the dive boats over the side of the ship, nor is it safe for divers to be in and out of the small boats. With seas like this, it is very difficult for the boat drivers to see the bubbles from the divers, or to spot them if they surface away from where they are expected. So we've been mapping all day. While it is disappointing not to be able to conduct diving operations, we're still getting some valuable data with the multibeam activities, and have identified some really interesting targets that we hope to dive on later in the cruise.

Samantha Martin, Senior Survey Technician (l) and Kacey Johnson (r) monitoring Multibeam Mapping data

Samantha Martin, Senior Survey Technician (l) and Kacey Johnson (r) monitoring Multibeam Mapping data
(Photo: Debbie Campbell)

Since departing Charleston on Monday afternoon, we have been very productive, so we feel good about our progress to date, despite Saturday's weather. Between Tuesday and Friday, we completed 108 research dives, which is a very respectable number in such a short time! JD was able to finish all his arc shell collections, so one project is complete. We have tagged eleven fish - 6 black sea bass, 2 scamp and 3 gag - and therefore are well on our way to reaching our goal of 20 fish.

Arca Zebra samples collected at Gray's Reef NMS

Arca Zebra samples collected at Gray's Reef NMS
(Photo: Debbie Meeks)

Thus far, the chevron trap has been our best source of fish. We are baiting the traps with menhaden and live mud minnows. We have the minnows safely contained in a clear plastic tube, which draws the big fish in (and dozens of black sea bass!), but prevents them from being able to eat the bait. This seems to have been the trick - the grouper seem to be very interested in the mud minnows. No luck yet with red snapper, but we're hoping to catch of few of them eventually.

Divers Chris Gardner, Sarah Fangman and Paul Barbera attempt to remove grouper from chevron fish trap

Divers Chris Gardner, Sarah Fangman and Paul Barbera attempt to remove grouper from chevron fish trap
(Photo: Greg McFall)

On the first morning we dove on our trap and it had five grouper in it - a great start! Unfortunately two of them got away while we were trying to get them out of the trap. Removing the fish from the trap is definitely the hardest part of this process. Once we have them in a net and begin surgery, the fish have been fairly easy to handle. We simply turn the fish upside down in the net, hold them by the jaw, and the tagging begins. The process takes less than ten minutes, and then the fish are let go. They all swim away with gusto (can you blame them?). We have seen our tagged fish swimming around the reef on subsequent dives, and they appear to be healthy. We are able to identify our tagged fish by the external "spaghetti" tag that is attached to the fish before release.

Tagged black sea bass swims near ledge in Gray's Reef

Tagged black sea bass (top fish; yellow "spaghetti" tag visible near the dorsal fin) swims near ledge in Gray's Reef NMS.
(Photo: Randy Rudd)

In addition to tagging fish and collecting arc shells, divers have also been busy maintaining the instruments deployed around Gray's Reef that are listening for our tagged fish. We have 21 acoustic receivers placed on the seafloor around the sanctuary, and each of these must be serviced by divers every three months. So far this cruise, we've visited nine of our acoustic receiver sites - either to replace the existing receiver with a new one or two pull the entire array so it can be repositioned to better track the fish we are tagging this week. We still have twelve receivers to visit, so hopefully the weather will improve soon so we can get back under water!)

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