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December 2017
Contact: Heather Soulen

Twelve Days of Fishmas

December 25, 2017

On the twelfth day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

CTD carousel??? CTD carousel outfitted with 12 Niskin bottles (long grey tubes) being deployed during an EcoMon cruise aboard the NOAA research vessel Gordon Gunter. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC

Twelve Niskins sampling,
Eleven filters clogging,
Ten drifters drifting,
Nine degrees a-shifting,
Eight minute recordings,
Seven days a-tagging,
Six loggers logging,
Five acoustic pings,
Four spawning cohorts,
Three smolt releases,
Two measuring boards
And estimates of fish fecundity

When scientists want to sample seawater at specific depths within the water column they often use a device called a Niskin Bottle. With both ends open, the bottle is lowered into the water and when it reaches a specific depth, an electronic signal sent from a computer operated by a scientist aboard the research vessel triggers the Niskin bottle to close. When the bottle closes, the water sample is sealed off from the external environment and won't mix with water from other depths during deployment. Often a CTD - an acronym for conductivity, temperature and depth -- is incorporated into an array of Niskin bottles referred tin a carousel or rosette. Having an array of 12 Niskin bottles means that scientists can collect up to 12 discrete water samples per CTD deployment. A CTD in conjunction with a rosette of Niskin bottles allows scientists to characterize the essential physical properties of seawater. Since some properties of seawater cannot be measured electronically, taking a water sample is critical for characterization. Water samples also verify electronic measurements as a quality control measure. With both electronic and physical water samples, scientists monitor and compare seawater properties from one location to another as well as over time. Water samples are analyzed for nutrients, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), chlorophyll and salinity.

Learn why we conduct EcoMon cruises »


December 24, 2017

On the eleventh day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

wound filters Wound filters used in ocean acidification research become clogged with particles like sediment, organic matter and microscopic organisms found in seawater. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/NEFSC

Eleven filters clogging,
Ten drifters drifting,
Nine degrees a-shifting,
Eight minute recordings,
Seven days a-tagging,
Six loggers logging,
Five acoustic pings,
Four spawning cohorts,
Three smolt releases,
Two measuring boards
And estimates of fish fecundity

Scientists use filters to remove sediments, organic matter and microscopic organisms from experimental seawater because these particles have the potential to affect study results. To control for this, scientists will often use a series of filters to remove particles. At our Sandy Hook Lab, the smallest filter they use during their ocean acidification experiments has mesh with holes measuring 0.5 microns wide, meaning only particles that are less than 0.5 microns can pass through the mesh. For size comparison, a human hair is about 75 to 100 microns wide and a human red blood cell is about 7 microns wide.

Learn about ocean acidification research at our Milford and Sandy Hook Labs »


December 23, 2017

On the tenth day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

launching drifters Launch of the first two drifters from a ferry on May 25, 2017. Photo credit: Cassie Stymiest, Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation.

Ten drifters drifting,
Nine degrees a-shifting,
Eight minute recordings,
Seven days a-tagging,
Six loggers logging,
Five acoustic pings,
Four spawning cohorts,
Three smolt releases,
Two measuring boards
And estimates of fish fecundity

Oceanographer Jim Manning and colleagues at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution deployed 10 ocean drifters this summer to track water flow in and out of the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine. Five of the drifters were "surface drifters" that track flow near the surface of the water and five were "subsurface drogues" that track flow about 35 feet below the surface. Ultimately the goal is to help refine circulation and Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) forecasting models to inform those in the shellfish and seafood industry on when best to prepare for HAB events. Harmful Algal Blooms are caused by the rapid uncontrolled growth of microscopic algae species that produce toxins. Not only do HABs affect the health of people and aquatic ecosystems, but they also affect the health of local and regional economies associated with the shellfish and fishing industry.

Learn how we use drifters to better understand harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Maine. »


December 22, 2017

On the ninth day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

Projected thermal habitat for American lobster in the fall. These animations show projected distributions of suitable thermal habitat based on the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory's high-resolution global climate model (CM2.6). It is important to note that these are ONLY projections of thermal habitat and DO NOT include other important factors such as fishing mortality, species interactions, and bottom-up forcing.

Nine degrees a-shifting,
Eight minute recordings,
Seven days a-tagging,
Six loggers logging,
Five acoustic pings,
Four spawning cohorts,
Three smolt releases,
Two measuring boards
And estimates of fish fecundity

Using a high-resolution global climate model and historical observations of species distributions on the Northeast U.S. Shelf our scientists found that commercially important species will continue to shift their distribution. Why is this? Warming ocean temperatures. Projected temperature increases in surface to bottom waters of 6.6 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit are expected. The model shows key northern species including Acadian redfish, American plaice, Atlantic cod, haddock, and thorny skate possibly losing thermal habitat, while spiny dogfish and American lobster may gain thermal habitat. While these are only projections and don't include other important factors affecting fish population numbers like fishing, species interactions and bottom-up forcing, major changes within this ecosystem are likely given the historical changes observed over the past five decades.

More on how marine species will continue to shift under ocean warming »


December 21, 2017

On the eighth day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

Structures that spend long periods of time in aquatic environments are susceptible to marine biofouling, the accumulation of marine fouling organisms. Aquacultural gear used for oyster farming often provide suitable surfaces for biofouling. Here a scup (Stenotomus chrysops) nibbles on biofouling organisms that have attached to the oyster cage rope. Video credit: NOAA Fisheries/Gillian Philips, NEFSC

Eight minute recordings,
Seven days a-tagging,
Six loggers logging,
Five acoustic pings,
Four spawning cohorts,
Three smolt releases,
Two measuring boards
And estimates of fish fecundity

Scientists at the Milford Lab are studying if and how aquaculture gear might function like naturally occurring rock reef habitats, providing commercially and recreationally important fish with food, shelter and other ecosystem services. To do this, our researchers attached GoPro cameras to oyster cages used for shellfish aquaculture. The GoPros record 8 minute video clips every hour for 12 hours during the experiment. This winter the team will review the GoPro footage and generate species, abundance, and behavior data. Not only will this study provide information about aquaculture gear as habitat, but it may also help inform regulatory and permitting processes for marine and estuarine aquaculture.

Learn more about Milford's research on how oyster cages may serve as finfish habitat »


December 20, 2017

On the seventh day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

tag inserted into salmon smolt NEFSC staff prepare to tag a large female sandbar shark caught during the Cooperative Atlantic States Shark Pupping and Nursery (COASTSPAN) survey in Delaware Bay in July. Mature female sandbar sharks come into this estuary to give birth during the summer months. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Apex Predators Program, NEFSC

Seven days a-tagging,
Six loggers logging,
Five acoustic pings,
Four spawning cohorts,
Three smolt releases,
Two measuring boards
And estimates of fish fecundity

Each summer, our scientists set out on a series of research trips to Delaware Bay. Their objective: to better understand the movements, migrations, and seasonal distributions of sharks using nearshore habitats as nurseries. The work is part of the Cooperative Atlantic States Shark Pupping and Nursery (COASTSPAN) program, a large collaborative study with academic institutions and state agencies along the East Coast of the United States. To meet their research objective, the team captures sharks, collects a range of data on each one (such as species, sex, and length), then tags and releases them back to the wild. Each trip typically takes seven days, but if the weather is bad their trip can last longer.

Learn more about the COASTSPAN program and the 2017 tagging effort in Delaware Bay »


December 19, 2017

On the sixth day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

tag inserted into salmon smolt NOAA Fisheries biologist Graham Goulette retrieves and downloads a temperature logger from the Narraguagus River in Downeast Maine. Photo by NOAA/NEFSC

Six loggers logging,
Five acoustic pings,
Four spawning cohorts,
Three smolt releases,
Two measuring boards
And estimates of fish fecundity

While the Atlantic Salmon Ecosystems Research Team (ASERT) team had 12 temperature loggers out this past year, six of them were deployed for the Spatial Hydro-Ecological Decision System (or SHEDS) program. These loggers are part of a statewide effort to monitor stream temperature in Maine. Temperature is important for all living things, especially for fish. Fish are ectothermic, meaning they rely on their environment to manage their body temperature. Stream temperature data from loggers placed in rearing habitats are important for running Atlantic salmon growth rate models. They can also provide an early glimpse into juvenile survival rates. Data collected through the SHED's program by federal and state agencies as well as universities and non-governmental organizations across the Northeastern U.S. are shared through the SHED's database. Right now there are 69 agencies and organisations participating in the program.

Learn more about SHED and how our Atlantic salmon scientists are collecting and using stream temperature data.


December 18, 2017

On the fifth day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

tag inserted into salmon smolt Acoustic transmitter about the size of a Jolly Rancher is surgically inserted into an anesthetized Atlantic salmon smolt. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Jim Hawkes, NEFSC

Five acoustic pings,
Four spawning cohorts,
Three smolt releases,
Two measuring boards
And estimates of fish fecundity

Actually, it's probably thousands of pings by now. Acoustic telemetry is a cost effective way to learn about animal behavior, migration, habitat use, and survival. When animals carrying an acoustic tag come within a specific distance of a programmed receiver, the receiver recognizes the acoustic tag's "ping" and records the presence of that animal.To date we've tagged salmon, cod, striped bass, sharks, sea turtles, and a gray seal. This winter scientists in our Protected Species Branch will add gray seal weanlings to the list. Their goal is to better understand how weanlings move and behave in the ocean environment.

See how we turn telemetry data into useful visualizations »


December 17, 2017

On the fourth day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

intern collecting silverside eggs Collecting eggs from female silverside. Credit: NOAA Fisheries, NEFSC

Four spawning cohorts,
Three smolt releases,
Two measuring boards
And estimates of fish fecundity

This summer, interns worked with Research Fishery Biologist Chris Chambers at our Sandy Hook lab to study how ocean acidification (high carbon dioxide) and hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen) might impact embryo development, hatching success, and larval survival of Atlantic silversides (Menidia menidia). To do this interns first collected ripe adult fish at four different times over the course of the summer. After each collection, they harvested eggs and sperm from these fish, fertilized the eggs, and placed fertilized eggs into one of four experimental treatments:

  • High carbon dioxide with normal dissolved oxygen
  • High carbon dioxide with low dissolved oxygen
  • Normal carbon dioxide with normal dissolved oxygen
  • Normal carbon dioxide with low dissolved oxygen

They repeated their experiment four times using four different cohorts, or groups, of silversides they collected in Sandy Hook Bay.

Learn about the different kinds of internships and research students participated in »


December 16, 2017

On the third day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

Spring 2017 release of Atlantic salmon smolts tagged with acoustic telemetry transmitters to better understand their behavior and survival during migration. Video credit: NOAA Fisheries/Graham Goulette, NEFSC. Editing: NOAA Fisheries/Heather Soulen, NEFSC

Three smolt releases,
Two measuring boards
And estimates of fish fecundity

On April 26, May 3 and May 10 of this year, research fishery biologist Jim Hawkes and others from our Orono Lab released 202 hatchery-raised Atlantic salmon smolts tagged with small transmitters. Their goal is to better understand smolt behavior and survival in Maine's Narraguagus River. This tagging effort allows the team to track how fast the smolts move, where they go, how long they stayed in one location compared to another location, and more. By using acoustic telemetry technology -- tags that "ping" and receivers that "hear" and record the ping location -- scientists can "set it and forget it," meaning the technology generates a lot of targeted data in various environments without too much human help. This research is important because many of the Atlantic salmon populations within the southern part of the species' range are critically low, while other populations no longer exist.

Learn more about Atlantic salmon smolt behavior »


December 15, 2017

On the second day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

Cooperative Research Branch staff members Dave McElroy and Giovanni Gianesin measure spiny dogfish using the Ichthystick measuring board during the fall 2017 longline survey. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Cooperative Research Branch, NEFSC

Two measuring boards
And estimates of fish fecundity

Scientists working on the Cooperative Gulf of Maine Bottom Longline Survey always pack two Ichthystick measuring boards to record fish lengths. These measuring boards work when the user places a magnetic handheld stylus tool on the measuring board where the fish's tail ends. In doing this, the stylus tool interrupts an electrical signal within the measuring board, allowing a length measurement to be calculated. Specialize software records that fish length in a computer database that is later merged with other survey data. This longline survey began in the spring of 2014 to collect data on species that prefer rocky habitat that is difficult to sample with sampling gear used on the NEFSC Bottom Trawl Survey. Using more than one gear type (e.g., trawls, longline, etc.) to collect fisheries data provides a more complete picture for better stock assessments and effective management.

Learn more about the recent Cooperative Gulf of Maine bottom longline survey trip »


December 14, 2017

On the first day of Fishmas our Center gave to thee...

person looking through monkfish egg veil Close-up of part of an egg veil. It may look a bit like bubble wrap, but the light tan colored spots, or bubbles, are eggs. The image was taken during a Gulf of Maine shrimp survey on the R/V Gloria Michelle. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Heidi Marotta, NEFSC

Estimates of fish fecundity

Fecundity is the number of eggs a female fish spawns. It differs by species, age, length, and weight of fish. Most marine fish produce many (sometimes millions) of small eggs, whereas others, such as salmon or trout, produce far fewer but much larger eggs. These tradeoffs interest scientists. To estimate fecundity for fish like cod, goosefish and other species that can produce lots of eggs, our scientists use a microscope and camera system in conjunction with computer software to automate and speed up the counting process. Fisheries scientists count eggs to learn how fish take energy from the ecosystem and turn it into more fish. Because our scientists know the size of each fish and where each fish was caught, they can look at how fish productivity might change with fish size or location. This research helps managers evaluate different proposed conservation and management plans.

Learn more about monkfish fecundity »

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NOAA Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources and their habitat through scientific research, management and enforcement. NOAA Fisheries Service provides effective stewardship of these resources for the benefit of the nation, supporting coastal communities that depend upon them, and helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and recreational opportunities for the American public. Join NOAA Fisheries on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

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