Monday, October 24, 2011
Upon the fourth straight day of rare perfect weather, we anticipated great things. We were off to a slow start marking tuna here and there but never reeling any in.
In the afternoon, the water turned perfectly still, creating a mirror image of the sky. Large schools of mackerel, visible by the nervous water vibrating above them, surrounded the boat. While waiting for tuna to bust through, we were visited by a seal bobbing its head up and down like a buoy, and a curious little mola swam around one of our floats. Then boom! Giant tuna began shattering through the glassy water in the distance as we reeled in our lines and went after them. It seemed as though they were toying with us for as soon as we arrived on top of them, they would bust again behind us.
Even with no tuna, the sheer calmness and beauty of the day brought amazement to us all.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
|Danny Coffey, Robbie Schallert and George Shillinger|
|Pete's Pair-A-Dice hooked up before a transfer|
|Bluefin tuna with a Vemco acoustic tag|
TAG Canada Headquarters – The Lighthouse Cottages,
|The Bay Queen IV returning to the docks at Port Hood|
(photo by Dr. George Shillinger)
The Icehouse in Port
(photo by Dr. George Shillinger)
Bluefin tuna captured by commercial fishermen near Port Hood,
(photo by Dr. George Shillinger)
Bluefin tuna weigh-in at the Icehouse.
(photo by Dr. George Shillinger)
The dressed fish are re-weighed, given a final rinse, and dumped into an icebath, where they await a trip (usually within 6-12 hours) to foreign and domestic markets, and their final destination on a sushi platter.
Friday, October 14, 2011
|Waiting For A Bite – Off MacDonald’s Glen, Mabou Highlands, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 14th, 2011.|
Friday was forecasting a strong blow to pick up after noon, but with a flat morning and a location in the lee of the Mabou Highlands, three Nova Scotian TAG vessels headed out. The ‘Bay Queen IV’ waited for a bite all morning. It never came. With eyes lured offshore to a lone commercial vessel midway to the horizon, Capt’n Dennis Cameron decided to move. No sooner was the bow pointed away from shore than Aaron Spares spotted a lone Bluefin a mile or more ‘outside’ jumping vertically clear of the water and nose diving back in. Interest aroused, but no one counting their tuna just yet, the ‘Bay Queen IV’ cruised steadily to the spot to find a fresh oil slick. Hooks baited and back in, the team once again waited. A down-bait reeled off soon after. A fight ensued. The giant ran twice, and then settled into a tug-of-war at 100-140 feet under the boat. Robbie Shallert, Craig Cameron and Sheldon Gillis all took turns on the reel, but for every foot gained, the giant took one back.
|Risin' Up - Off MacDonald's Glen, Mabou Highlands, Northumberland Strait, Canada|
With a defeat lingering on deck, the wind started to blow. Waves began to build. The boat began to rock and roll, but marks on the sounder suggested there may be redemption for those who wait. At about 2 pm, with white capped water all around, a rod on the ‘Bay Queen IV’ screamed. The fight was personal this time, but the victory was bittersweet. A 190 cm tuna came aboard to receive its jewellery and was sent kicking back into the turbulent water. With Taggers and crew trying to maintain balance on deck, the word to call it a day was given. The TAG boats broke through crests and troughs, slamming home the message that some of the more memorable days are a bit of both extremes, both bitter and sweet.
-text and photos by Aaron Spares
|A Fleeting Moment - Northumberland Strait tuna fishery off Mabou Highlands|
|Craigor Cameron battles a bluefin|
|This bluefin is being tagged with an acoustic tag|
Thursday, October 13, 2011
The Celtic Colors are in full swing here in Cape Breton, along with a cool autumn breeze. The Bay Queen IV headed north up the coast line to the Mabou Coal Mines to meet up with the PEI tag boats. After a quick stop for mackerel, we started to set-up our gear a quarter mile from shore...but before we could get our last bait in the water, the Neptuna crackled over the radio that he had a fish on. After a short, 20 minute fight, Ross Keus and TAG Team 2 were on the board with an acoustically tagged 400 lber.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
|On alert - Sheldon, Craig and Aaron (kilted)|
|Depth sounder marking giants|
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
The tagging effort aboard Shogun continued as TAG team returned to the region of Tuesday's hot bite, less than a 14h run from San Diego. We picked up right where we left off. At dawn after drifting for 3 hours we were just about to pick up and leave to start searching for fish in less than ideal conditions, when our TAG summer intern, James Stiltner hooked up on a bluefin tuna. This morning the team of interns, graduate students, post-docs and techs had set up for tagging and loading fish into the wells. The Shogun crew led by Captains Norm and Bruce, with Randy, Tommy, Scott, Chachi - snapped into action and had bluefin lined up for the swimstep team who were often waste deep in water as the rough conditions made things sporty. Sure enough before 8am we had put out the remaining 7 archival tags –for a grand total of 110 tagged bluefin in two stops! Bluefin of a perfect size and yellowfin were loaded onto the ship at sunrise. The bite was wide open, and it's hard to imagine the quality of fishing we observed. More samples were taken to observe diet and isotopic signature which enables the team led by Dan Madigan to discern where these two year old tunas have come from. All and all it was a wonderful day- despite some challenging seas.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Today we unloaded the 26 bluefin and one yellowfin tuna to the truck and pool located at the pier at Scripps Marfac dock. Half the fish were loaded into the “tunabago,” the transport tank that gives the bluefin a free ride up the California highways to the Tuna Research and Conservation Center (TRCC) at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, in Pacific Grove. Thirteen bluefin tuna, all about 15 lbs at most, were loaded into the holding tank on the truck and another group swims currently in the pool at Marfac. Every fish was handled in a sling of water beginning in the wells aboard the Shogun where Alex Norton (our tuna whisperer) gently cradled each fish. They receive an Avid ID tag, get a length measurement and then are sent in the sling through a series of gentle hand lifts or carries that takes the fish to the truck or pool. It’s a well choreographed ballet where the team, tuna, water and strength all combine to move tunas from the ship to the transport truck. We all admired the great color of the bluefin, their stripes all lit up as they entered the cool waters in the truck. They will get the ride of their life to their new home. We were thrilled at the great condition of the fish and after loading with new bait headed back out to the fishing grounds.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
This year we had some older TAG team members from our lab, including Tag-A-Giant and TRCC technicians Robbie Schallert and Alex Norton, Stanford technician for our Gulf oil spill team Ben Machado. Also on board were Stanford graduate students Dane Klinger and Dan Madigan, and undergraduates who had interned with the TRCC this summer including undergraduates Natalie, Ethan, Sarah, Andrew and James.
Captain and Professor Norm put us in a great spot to drift and before sun up Dan Madigan hooked up. This year to prepare with our younger team, we had held a “tagging class," and went over the cradling of fish on the swim step. Sure enough chaos occurred during the first fast bite when the team barely had their feet wet. We put the fish that first appeared as yellowfin into the side wells and quickly filled to capacity.
We then heard the first call from the crew of, "Bluefin!" The tagging team (Barb, Robbie, Dr. Joe Bonaventura) went into the action- tagging 7 yellowfin. The bite slowed down and we moved on. Within an hour, Norm glanced and viewed a sonar hit that was extremely interesting- the fish were down on the thermocline- in the “feed layer” or deep scattering layer the area I call the "peanut butter of the ocean," filled with small crustaceans and squid. From the moment we stopped on the sonar school until 6 PM we had steady bluefin action that led to what I think may be the highest single electronic tagging stop for bluefin tuna-96 archival tagged bluefin (all with one tagging station!). In addition, we filled up the slammer with bluefin. Scientific samples were taken by Dan and Ben from a handful of bluefin to discern isotopic signatures (think "You are what you eat!") and to also determine from where the fish had come (signatures from the open sea are lower in numerical value than in the productive California Current).
I was a bit surprised to see Captain Bruce, Randy and Tommy admiring an albacore as if they had not seen one in a while. This was the first albacore of the season – remarkable given it happened the third week in August. I thought the albacore were quite skinny - suggesting they had come from offshore. History was made here today aboard the Shogun-by the end of the day, we had collected all the bluefin required for the TRCC this year, tagged 103 tunas and released another 50 more. All in all, we could have tagged 200 bluefin today! Too bad we did not have more conventional and electronic tags! The fish were very young, potentially new arriving fish on the west coast. From prior tagging we know that this year class will be retentive to the California current and provide super fishing on a 30lb 3rd year fish next season so let’s hope their survival will lead to more knowledge and great fishing!
-Dr. Barbara Block
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Figure 1. Positions of all TOPP animals, color-coded based on species group: blue - tunas (yellowfin, bluefin and albacore), orange - pinnipeds (northern elephant seals, California sea lions and northern fur seals), red - sharks (salmon, white, blue, common thresher and mako), purple - seabirds (Laysan and black-footed albatrosses and sooty shearwaters), green - sea turtles (leatherback and loggerhead) and black - cetaceans (blue, fin, sperm and humpback whales).
To date, recapture rates of over 50% on the archival-tagged Pacific bluefin have yielded the world's largest electronic tag dataset - over 66,000 days in the life of Pacific bluefin tuna. Major results presented in today's paper include a description of how some young bluefin tuna migrate from their birthplace near Japan to the waters off the West Coast where they display residency within California Current for a number of years. They then migrate back to their birthplace along the trans-oceanic migration highway called the North Pacific Transition Zone.
“How or why a young bluefin tuna less than two years of age wakes up in the light of the Japan sea and decides to swim to Baja remains completely unknown,” says Dr. Block. “Once they get here, tagging data indicate they reside for years, taking advantage of the rich forage off North American coastlines. These tunas become vulnerable to oceanic fisheries across the Pacific during both this highly migratory period and this retentive period lunching on our coast.”
A more concerning result of the study relates to the high rates of tag return - this is great for the science but also unfortunately indicates high fisheries mortality. TAG scientists are now using the tagging data to develop a stock assessment model for Pacific bluefin tuna to determine the status of the species and assess whether the current fishing effort is sustainable.
For more information on TOPP and the Nature paper, click here.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
It was another fine day on the water aboard the Sensation. Today the TAG team was joined by Michael Tickle in the angler’s seat. Captain Dale, Alan, and CP rounded out the tagging crew with Robbie and Andre. We started the day with a double header of bluefin, one of which made it to the boat for a tag. As we were fighting those two fish, CP drifted a bait back and we had another hit on the drifting ballyhoo. Michael’s expert angling made quick work of that 72 inch fish and it was soon on its way out the door with a brand new tag of its own. The bite slowed down throughout the fleet late in the morning, and we didn’t get any more tags out for the rest of the day, despite seeing bluefin swimming in the waves. We did manage a double header of yellowfin, which added to the excitement as the bluefin bite dropped off. We were also rewarded with some delightful nature viewing, with common and Risso’s dolphin pods swimming with the tunas and the ever present hammerhead sharks. We had Wednesday off due to weather, but will give it another go on Thursday. Wish us luck!