One of the final nets to talk about is the surface trawl. It is an oval-shaped net that allows us to catch larger fish swimming near the top of the water. Around 16 meters wide and about 18 meters in height, it’s finest moment during leg three of the survey happens when a single juvenile pacific salmon emerges from the webbing. We have been using this net mainly for leg three and it is used in hopes of gaining more information about the fish that swim in the lower Chukchi Sea. Kris Cieciel watches over the operation of the surface trawl from the wheelhouse with intent focus, working with the crewmen who steer the boat in order to maintain the large trawl for the best speed and angle for optimum catching area in all types of weather and wave. Other fish that have been caught, such as herring and crested sculpin, brought to light the size of fish in relation to the upper Chukchi Sea, which were significantly smaller.
Days have slipped by with increasing awareness that our trip is coming close to an end. Dan, Kris, Robert, Aleksey and Igor are the fish collection trailblazers when the trawl catches are hauled up onto the sorting table. Adam manages the bongo net to collect zooplankton, while Eric keeps the CTD steadily functioning. Steve and I will carry on the water filtration right until the very end. Our scientists have been very busy during this research cruise. Since leg one the R/V Ocean Starr has traveled 6632 nautical miles! While most of us have made preparations to leave, a few scientists are staying on board for the “bonus” leg, from Nome to Dutch Harbor, another 720 nautical miles!
Dan Cooper, a fish biologist from the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, WA, will be tagging along for leg four. He definitely enjoys studying fish and hopes to work towards in describing the juvenile flatfish habitat from the trawls on our cruise, mainly Bering flounder, Yellowfin Sole and Greenland Turbot. He has been in charge of the benthic grab, a scientific version of the arcade claw machines, that drops down to the bottom and gets a scoop of the sediment to see if it is mud or sand or gravel at every station. He would like to gain more information on the preferred nursery habitat for fish in terms of sediment type, depth, temperature, and geographical locations. While we were in Nome, you could find him with his portable fishing rod at a nearby river trying his luck.
Alex Andrews, who was on leg two, will be coming back to make the trip to Dutch Harbor. From the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute in Juneau (*whew!*), he is part of a study on the impacts of climate change affecting fish distribution, diet, and energetics in the Eastern Bering Sea. Like Dan, he has a passion for fishing and of course very much enjoys learning more about the fish ecology! I wish these gentlemen good luck on the voyage to Dutch Harbor as they provide evidence that our scientists can pursue their passion for science.