Just after midnight on Wednesday May 26th, scientists released the last tagged fish back into the Gray's Reef, and the ship started steaming for Savannah. With that final release, the team completed the first leg of the 2010 cruise aboard the R/V Nancy Foster. The cruise was enormously productive, despite being cut short by three days due to weather and mechanical issues.
During the 10-day cruise the following was accomplished: twenty-five fish were caught, tagged with acoustic transmitters and released (3 red snapper, 4 scamp and 18 gag grouper). Fishing activities were supported by teams of talented fishermen aboard the Georgia Department of Natural Resources R/V Marguerite and Gray's Reef vessels R/V Joe Ferguson and R/V Sam Gray. Aboard these vessels were over 45 volunteers who assisted with seven days of offshore fishing and 4 days of inshore bait fishing. We are enormously grateful for their efforts – because without them, we'd have no fish to study!
After scientists aboard the ship surgically implanted transmitters in the fish, and once our husbandry team cleared them for release, the fish were returned to where they had been caught. Divers visited several sites where tagged fish had been released, and were pleased to observe several of our study subjects swimming around the reef.
To assist in tracking our study subjects, four new acoustic receiver sites were established and thirteen existing receiver arrays were serviced and downloaded. In addition, divers conducted habitat assessment surveys at five acoustic receiver sites, in an effort to understand why the fish are spending time in different parts of the sanctuary.
Divers also conducted marine debris monitoring at eight sites within the sanctuary. CO2 sensors were deployed on the seafloor and on the Gray's Reef data buoy and an underway CO2 system collected samples during the entire cruise. To accomplish all these tasks, divers conducted 75 dives and spent over 26 hours underwater during the ten day mission. At night, scientists continued a multi-year multibeam mapping effort to characterize habitats to the east and north of GRNMS covering over 19.5 square nautical miles (nm2) of area.
Outreach efforts during the cruise included two media days and updates to this web site. This year we also added a video component to the web site. An Open House is scheduled aboard the ship on Memorial Day, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. along River Street in Savannah.
Accomplishing all this requires support from a large team of people, and we are most grateful to them all for their part in making this effort a huge success!
The cruise involved over seventy individuals representing the following institutions:
Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef Team Ocean Volunteer Dive Program
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
Savannah State University
Skidaway Institute of Oceanography
University of Georgia's Center for Applied Isotope Studies
University of Georgia's Marine Extension Service
Hopefully our collective efforts will help us to better understand and protect the amazing resources within Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.