My name is Devin Dumont and I am the Curator of the UGA Marine Extension service Aquarium in Savannah, GA. Karin Paquin (Assistant Curator) and I were invited to participate as husbandry personnel in the Acoustic Fish Monitoring Project at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. We are both honored to involved, and I cannot describe the excitement I felt this morning on the ride out to the sanctuary.
Although the project officially started today, Karin and I have been involved with key aspects of planning. For a couple weeks prior to this expedition, Karin and I have been collecting bait with other UGA-MAREX staff and storing them in a live well system created at Priest Landing through collaboration with the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Gray's Reef Office.
We wanted to expedite the process of catching our target species by have bait ready and available so that no fishing time was lost in the morning searching for live bait. The preparation paid off since the fishing team was able to be on site early this morning and catch the morning bite.
All of the fish today were caught within an hour and a half, so timing was critical. The three target species caught today were gag grouper, scamp grouper, and red snapper.
Currently, Karin is stationed on the "fishing vessel" the R/V Joe Ferguson to assist with landing the fish and to vent air from the swim bladders of the fish, which occurs due to the pressure change of being brought up from depths of about 70-80 ft to the surface. Fish are then transferred to the R/V Nancy Foster via a runner boat, the R/V Sam Gray.
I am stationed on the R/V Nancy Foster to monitor the life support systems and the health of the fish. Throughout the night, I will be recorded water chemistry parameters and observing the general health status of the fish.
Tomorrow we will be tagging the fish externally and performing surgeries to implant acoustic transmitters in the body cavity of the fish. The goals of the surgeries are to minimize the stress on the fish and time in the MUSH unit, which stands for Mobile Underwater Surgical Hammock. The MUSH was designed by Greg McFall. The fish will be held for approximately 24 hours post surgery and treated with medicine before being released at the sites where they were caught. The first day was a big one in terms of catching fish and hopefully the whole process will continue until we are out of acoustic transmitters.
After a few days, Karin and I will trade stations and she will board the R/V Nancy Foster while I join the fishing team. Again, we both feel honored to be involved, but we are jealous of the divers. We are both working on our AAUS dive certifications so that we can be a part of the scientific dive team for future Gray's Reef diving operations.