These Fish Tales are the ones told during Oregon Master Naturalist field studies at the Oregon Aquarium in Newport, Oregon on March 1, 2014.Shared by sea-worthy guides: Jonathan Fram, PhD. Associate systems engineer for the Ocean Observatories Initiative, Jamie Doyle, Oregon State University Sea Grant Extension Agent, Scott Leach, coordinator and safety trainer for the West Coast Groundfish Observer Program.
Fish Tale 1- The oceanography of Oregon’s oceans has physical attributes.
If enthusiasm could be measured like waves breaking along the coastline, Jonathan Fram’s enthusiasm for his work as an oceanographer would be like those at headlands where waves tend to break the biggest.
No wonder he is excited… Jonathan is a member of a team of engineers and scientists who are designing, testing, and building the infrastructure and research equipment that will allow oceanographers, marine scientists, students, and the public to access real-time ocean science data sets – without – having to get onboard a research vessel. The project, Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), is funded by the Federal Government’s National Science Foundation.
Watch the following video to hear about the big ideas Jonathan explained in his presentation. Listen for key words: OOI, Arrays, moorings, cables, instruments, gliders, cyber infrastructure.https://www.youtube.com/embed/mrEiwd9Buxk?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
Questions I wonder about after learning about this project are:
- How will this project enhance our knowledge about marine systems: climate change, ocean currents, and ocean health?
- Will this project dove-tail with other major ocean study teams’ efforts like the partnership between the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the UNESCO World Heritage Center on actions for marine World Heritage?
- Are wave farms a good idea?
- What is there about the ocean that you wonder about?
Fish Tale 2- The oceanography of Oregon’s oceans has biological attributes.
It would be difficult to convince me otherwise… hands-on experiences are one of the most impacting ways to learn. I could see that is true for my classmates as well! Excited chatter filled the room as we broke into small groups,and were presented with collections of fish.
First, we participated in activities created to discover attributes of fish anatomy, and to notice various body shapes and structures for motion.
The most unusual of our fish samples is pictured in the last to photographs above… the Grenadier (Macrouridae). It is a deep sea fish, and lives at depths between 660 – 19,690 feet. It is a long-lived species that doesn’t begin to reproduce until 20-40 years of age. Grenadier are vulnerable to overfishing. They are often caught incidentally in long-line land bottom trawl fisheries targeting other groundfish. A conservation concern for long term sustainability, the Seafood Watch had identified grenadier as a species to “avoid.”
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Then we learned about six types of biological data collected by observers from non-protected fish samples:length, sex, otoliths, viability, tissue, and maturity. Our facilitators: Scott Leach, and Jamie Doyle, guided us through two of the data collection procedures: length, and otolith removal. The following are instructions cut directly from the WCGOP (Catch Shares) Training Manual.
Preparing to Measure FishBefore beginning to collect fish for length measurements, set up an area to measure fish. Create a “table” large enough to lay a fish on the stainless steel length strip.
Use the stainless steel measuring board, baskets, deck bin boards, or the deck as a table.
Measuring boards marked at centimeter increments are used for length measurements. The first line printed on the strip is 4.5 cm, and the space between that line and the next line is .5 cm.
Fork length is the fish length measurement used by the WCGOP and other NOAA Fisheries researchers. This is used on all flatfish and roundfish, with the exception of skates and sharks. Fork length is the length from the tip of the snout or lower jaw (whichever sticks out most) to the end of the middle rays of the caudal fin.
Measure fish using the following procedure:
- Lay the fish flat on the measuring board parallel to the center line.
- Pull the fish forward until its snout touches the vertical surface. This ensures that the fish is fully extended. Make sure the jaws are closed.
- Spread out the caudal rays to find the middle rays.
- Measure fork length, from the snout tip or lower jaw (whichever extends forward the most) to the end of the caudal fin.
- Make a pencil mark on the measuring board in the space where the fork length falls (above the center line for males and below the center line for females). If the fork length falls on a printed line on the board, try re-measuring the fish first, then if the length still falls directly on the line, use the lower centimeter measurement.
- After transferring the data to the appropriate form, clean the length board to remove the pencil marks and ready it for the next haul’s lengths.
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Otoliths are calcium carbonate structures found in many fish species. Otoliths grow in size with the fish and display their growth in annual rings, or annuli. The number of annuli are counted (or read) by scientists to determine the age of the fish. Otoliths are collected from three species, cowcod rockfish, yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish. Otoliths are also collected from tagged sablefish.
Otoliths are located in two pockets, below the brain, just posterior of the eyes. Typically they are in line with the pre-opercular line, just below the upper margin of the eye.
The otoliths are located ventrally to either side of the brain tissue, just above where the pre-operculum is located. The common methods of cutting into a fish’s head to remove the pair of otoliths are a vertical cut through the head above the pre-operculum or a horizontal cut through the head just above the eyes. The easiest method to use for most fish is to make a vertical cut down through the top of the head to the otolith pocket. This pocket is located at the two points on either side of the fish’s head at which an imaginarily extended lateral line would meet the pre-opercular bone.
- Make cut on the dorsal edge at the preopercle down until resistance lessens noticeably.
- Break open incision and remove otolith from pockets just under brain.
- Alternately, you can cut back from just above the eye to meet with the downward cut, to remove a wedge.
- Be gentle when cutting into fish and when removing otoliths. Otoliths are fragile. If you break an otolith, ensure you collect both pieces.
- Always wipe off all tissue and dry otoliths. Dirty otoliths become stained and unreadable. Wet otoliths lose their calcium and are no longer usable. Wet or damp otoliths are required to be air dried by the observer before submitting it to the debriefer.
Behind the Scenes at the Oregon Aquarium: Passages of the Deep
Visitors at the Oregon Aquarium can’t help to become awestruck by walk-through tanks that showcase the native species of fish that are found in the open ocean just off the Coast.
What most visitors do not see is what goes on behind the scenes to maintain a stable, and healthy environment for the more than 3,500 inhabitants swimming through the displays. Oregon Master Naturalist students were among the few that get to go behind, and above the scenes, to appreciate the energies- human, water, air, electrical- that run this amazing facility. Divers are in the tanks daily to clean, feed, and medicate. Passages of the Deep is a 1.32-million-gallon exhibit featuring three large ocean habitats connected by a 200-foot underwater tunnel- water must be back-flushed to remove waste products. It takes $30,000 worth of electricity to keep “all systems go.” See reblog from Oregon Aquarium for details about the pumping and cleaning of tank water.
Fish Tale 3- Because commercial fishing is important to Oregon commerce, it is helpful to understand:
- fish biology and habitat,
- capture methods,
- conservation measures and management.
What does it take to be a commercial fisher-person? This is not an easily answered question. Fisheries are bound by many regulations that dictate catch seasons, limits, and locations for fishing. Proper equipment is essential and gear must match the intended catch: long line for halibut; trawl for groundfish; purse seine for sardines; traps for crabs.Use bycatch reduction devices to decrease numbers of unintended species that are inadvertently caught.
And… on top of everything- fisheries must fish safely. Fishing boats are required to be equipped with a 406 beeper that automatically sends out a signal when the boat sinks without a mayday broadcast. Life rafts must be installed to automatically deploy. Survival immersion suits are a must in the cold waters of the Northwest Pacific.
Scott brought along a practice immersion suit. He held an impromptu training session so we could see what those who go to sea are trained to know how to do QUICKLY! (The fish in the tank wall of the classroom also seemed to pay attention. I wonder if the color of the suit was attractive to them.)
Instructions Cut from WCGOG (Catch Shares) Training Manual describe the specificity of how to don the Immersion Suit–
An immersion suit is required for everyone aboard a vessel that operates in cold water. You will be issued an immersion suit with your gear. It is your responsibility to check and maintain your suit. If it gets wet, air-dry it out of direct sunlight. If you notice any rips, tears, punctures, or other damage, notify the gear technician. Check your immersion suit monthly and record the date of inspection in your logbook. Store your immersion suit in an easily accessible location out of harms way. One of the best locations is just inside the galley door. That way you can reach it easily while working on deck and when exiting the wheel house.
The procedure for donning an immersion suit is as follows:
- Sit on deck and work your legs into the suit. It may be necessary to remove your boots. Placing plastic bags over your boots or feet may help your legs slide easier. If you choose to use plastic bags beware of them and make sure they do not get stuck in the zipper. People have died when a bag got caught in the zipper and their suit filled with water. If you can, leave your boots on or take them with you in your suit.
- Once your legs are all the way in, get up on your knees. Place your weak arm in first, and then pull the hood over your head with your strong arm. If you have long hair, make sure that it is safely tucked in the hood. If you are wearing a hooded sweatshirt be careful not to mix the hoods up.
- Holding the zipper below the slide with one hand, lean back to straighten the zipper and pull the lanyard with the other hand. Secure the face flap. Many times toggles or whistles attached to the zipper get caught during donning. Do not inflate the air bladder until in the water.
- Jumping in the water is the last resort. Ease yourself into the water if possible. If jumping is necessary, face the bow or stern and place your vessel side arm over the side and top of your head for protection and with the other hand cover your mouth and nose and get a couple fingers inside the hood to allow air to escape from the suit upon entering the water. Step off the vessel, don’t jump, and keep your feet together to protect from floating debris.
A trip to the Commercial Fishing Docks at Newport, Oregon
These photographs were taken at the crab-fisherie dock-