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AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

Aug 6, 2013 | Gulf of Alaska Project | 0 comments

by Olav Ormseth
August 6 2013

Greetings from Juneau! We (the inshore survey team) just pulled into Juneau to complete our spring eastern GOA survey. Overall the trip went very well. In fact, we suffered a sort of “embarrassment of riches”, in that we had so many fish in some of our catches and had to spend so much time working up the catch (sorting and then counting, and then measuring length), that we didn’t have time to do quite everything we had wanted to do (i.e. we had to cut a few oceanography stations and skip some surface trawls). That’s the nature of the work we do- there are only so many hours in the day, and there’s always some trade off involved in where we direct our efforts. The huge catches usually involved young-of-the-year (YOY) Pacific herring, which are only about 4 cm long. In one purse seine set we caught 9,000 of the little guys. Herring were one of the big stories from this trip- we had never seen so many herring, especially the young ones, and in so many places. We also encountered juvenile sand lance in large numbers. In the northernmost bays (Torch Bay and Graves Harbor) we caught a lot of YOY Pacific cod and YOY walleye pollock. In that area we were also sometimes accompanied by a trio of harbor porpoises. The most dramatic event for me was witnessing the live birth of young shiner perch- we seined up a bunch of obviously gravid (pregnant) shiner perch, and suddenly little tiny but perfectly-formed shiner perch started popping out of the mothers. We got those females back in the water quickly so that we wouldn’t hurt the newborn perch. Live birth is rare among fishes and it was certainly exciting to see it happening before our very eyes!

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