Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bluefin Blitz!

We've had an exciting day aboard the Shogun. We've been in an area that has some very spectacular schools of small bluefin- exactly what we're looking for. Today was an Audubon special with whales, albatross, jumping bluefin- and albacore- sometimes all around the boat. The bluefin are two year old bluefin- about 15-18 lb fish- perfect for collecting- and placing in wells flowing with seawater below the deck. The bluefin made some spectacular shows- at the surface- aggressively feeding, jumping and exciting all of us. We have not seen such intense surface action in two years. Sure enough we slid in on the fish, and both crew and scientists hooked up with live sardines. Our first priority was to fill the wells so that we could transport the bluefin back to Monterey for our Tuna Research and Conservation Center program. There the bluefin will be put through a variety of programs including having a new heart rate tag implanted inside the body cavity. Eventually some might make it to the "show," the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Outer Bay Waters tank where today, bluefin as large as 500 lbs collected 8 years ago by the Shogun are swimming gracefully. Once we collected fish and filled the wells- the archival tagging began. We were able to get out about 8 tags, a great start, all programmed to take high resolution data- at 4 second intervals. Imagine this- every 4 seconds we get ambient light, temperature, pressure and internal body temperature. The data allows us to "see" what a bluefin does from the second he or she leaves the boat. We're hoping the tagged fish will remain in the Ocean for years- with the tag capable of over 5 years or more of data logging. To date, our research team has collected over 50,000 days of Pacific bluefin tuna data with our archival tags, and our research will provide scientists and fisheries managers the basic information required to build models of how the bluefin use the California Current waters. It has been a super day- with inspiring shows from juvenile bluefin- and a scattered albacore bite mixed in later in the day. We're headed in to San Diego with the load of fish, and our team could not be happier.

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