Northwest Fisheries Science Center

The Main Deck

Acoustic and trawl adventures in the Northeast Pacific

This portal tracks the research and sea-going activities of the Fisheries Engineering and Acoustic Technologies (FEAT) Team from NOAA¿s Northwest Fisheries Science Center.  Follow us as we use acoustics, trawling, and oceanographic sampling to learn about the Northeast Pacific Ocean.

Back deck of Bell M. Shimada
Acoustic echogram of hake
trawl catch

Leg 2 Volunteer Perspective - Take 1

By Haley Wunderlich, student Gonzaga University
July 21, 2017

Waves breaking over the stern, image credit Haley Wunderlich

“We’re fishing!” In the beginning of this journey I thought I would dread hearing those words. Cutting open fish was not exactly my forte, and I assumed I would be overwhelmed by the large number of fish that come on board. Now when I hear them, I understand the value and sense of success when the net comes in and it has the perfect amount of fish. Not too many to be wasteful, not too little to feel discouraged. The fish are necessary for the survey to produce enough information for further research and it did not take me long to understand that. After many trawls and figuring out how to work in the wet lab, I would say myself and the other lab scientists have a much clearer understanding of hake. If you had asked me 12 days ago how to determine the sex of a hake I would have guessed a random organ in the body, but now in a matter of seconds I can identify the sex. I would consider myself a blossoming expert at sex identification in hake fish. The beginning was not quite as smooth. On the first trawl we only collected 2 fish. The two fish took the wet lab around two hours to work on. The next trawl collected 19 fish and this took us five hours to complete the necessary procedures. After the five hours of work time I was feeling discouraged. I realized that 19 is an extremely low catch of fish and that if those took us five hours that 700 fish would take all of eternity. Luckily, I was extremely wrong. We were in the stages of learning. Jason, Heather, Garima, and I had never worked in this exact lab before. It took a few days to get into a groove and then we were efficient and my spirits were raised. I never knew how much I could learn in such a short period time.

Whale fluke under Golden Gate, image credit Haley Wunderlich

Some of the major benefits of living on a ship are the sightings of whales and other marine life, getting to watch the sun set over the ocean, the incredible recliners in the lounge, and ice cream accessible at all hours. The fly bridge is one of my favorite places on this ship. It is the highest point on the where there is a picnic table and tall chairs where you can sit looking at the bow. It is a place I avoid in times of high seas and wind because it becomes a splash zone, you do not want to fly off the fly bridge. The fly bridge can be one of the most relaxing locations on the ship, yet it is never crowded. It never gets old watching the sun set over the horizon waiting to see if you can finally see the green flash. One of the most exciting moments on board the ship was going outside to find out there were marine mammals in the area. It became a guessing game of what animal is splashing around in the water until it came closer and closer and low and behold we had two sea lions playing around in the water. It was an amazing experience to see them play and swim around the ship. Marine mammals are always exciting except for when the net is out. When leaving San Francisco we saw countless whales and had not spotted much of anything until the sea lions had arrived. This made it even more exciting. Another great thing onboard is the lounge. It has great recliners that you can sit back and choose from an option of roughly 700 movies. I recommend watching Moana while the waves are rough, it creates a much more exciting experience as you move with the movie. Perhaps the best thing on board is the ability to get ice cream at any hour of the day. Of course there are other snacks and a salad bar available, but ice cream is much more important.

This has been a transformative experience. I have found a new version of myself that I did not know existed. I had spent limited time being at sea before and had never worked on a ship. The days leading up to July 5th caused me a bit of nervousness. I did not know what to expect and diving into an unfamiliar situation is always a bit nerve wracking. Little did I know I was going to have an amazing, eye-opening experience. Being an undergraduate in college, I am not entirely sure what my future holds. I can tell people my major and the classes I have been taking but I do not know where I will be in five years from now. I have hopes and aspirations and plan on more schooling, but this experience has given me a new outlook. I have found that I love the sea in calm or rough waters. Rough waves create some excitement and surprises. When you go back to your stateroom you get to find all of your belongings in new locations. But standing at the bow of the ship in calm waters and watching the sunset made me extremely thankful to be where I am. All I can hope is that this will not be my last time on a ship.

Tagged: Hake, Acoustic Survey, Ecosystem

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