Submitted by Louise Giuseffi
The NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette is currently conducting fisheries research in the nearshore waters of Guam as well as the surrounding offshore banks. The mission has three primary projects and this blog highlights the work of one of the major partners, the University of Guam Marine Laboratory.
University of Guam graduate students (a.k.a. Team Triton) aboard the Sette are collecting non-commercial and non-subsistence reef fish samples for the genetic Barcoding of Life project (http://www.barcodeoflife.org). The ship provides a platform for students to target these fish species which are not readily available at the Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative where most of their routine samples come from. The team is utilizing several methods to collect these difficult to acquire species.
Students have learned to deploy traps to catch fish and invertebrate samples from 40 -140 m depth. Several small reef sharks were caught in the traps and the team was able to take small tissue samples from fin clips and release the sharks alive. This is important because typically nonlethal sampling of sharks is very difficult!
Students are lowering a special night-light over the side of the ship to attract fish. The fish, including flying fish and juvenile reef fish are then captured with a handheld dip net. “I really enjoyed the night light dip netting. It’s a lot harder than it looks but once you get the hang of it, it’s kind of like a game. It really surprised me how easy it is to catch the flying fish. They literally swim into your net!” –Taryn Mesa
The students are also interested in reef fish larval connectivity. To collect these species they are using an Isaac’s-Kidd trawl at 30m and 100m deep during evenings. The ultimate goal is to better understand fish larvae recruitment patterns around Guam and the surrounding banks.
“ While the IK Trawls have produced some very interesting specimens, I think I’d have to say that setting the traps has been my favorite operation so far because the process was exciting to learn and we’ve gotten to safely sample shark species that can be difficult to handle with other fishing techniques.” -Marylou Staman
When asked what was the strangest creature the students had seen on this trip:
“ Definitely the alien-like lobster larvae (phyllosoma) from the IK Trawl. I’ve seen different stages of crustacean larvae before, but this one was so different – it was as large as my palm, flat as paper and completely translucent.” –Marylou Stalman
“In one of our crab pots, we caught two Calappa calappa or shame-faced crabs. The shape of their claws, one club-like and the other dagger-like, are designed for eating snails. Although my favorite part about them is the shape of their shell and how when they pull their claws into their body, it looks as though they are covering their face, in a bashful or shameful way, hence their name.” –Taryn Mesa
“This cruise has given us the unique opportunity to study the parts of our coastline that have been impossible to reach with our limited resources on Guam. My favorite part so far was being able to survey the northern coastline around the Pati Point preserve because that area is usually very difficult to reach with the small boats we use at the Marine Lab. I feel very lucky to be able to survey some of these areas that most people on Guam will never be able to see.” – Marylou Staman