Posted By Corey Eddy
10 April 2012
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth graduate student Corey Eddy is currently onboard a purse seine fishing vessel in the eastern Pacific Ocean. He is studying sharks, specifically the physiological stress response, survival, and post-release behavior of sharks captured during purse seining operations. Corey explains the focus of his project in this video.
Well, hello again. It’s been an interesting week, but unfortunately a slow start considering we have yet to set the fishing gear. We’ve been at sea since Thursday, March 29th, having left the dock at the NIRSA facilities in Posorja at 5am. It was an uneventful departure, compared with the fanfare of last year’s cruise on the Yolanda L. This is a regular fishing trip and we quietly slipped from the pier and out to sea as the sun rose and the city awoke.
After a few hours, with the shoreline just beginning to fade away, the boat made an abrupt turn and we could see two small boats in the distance off our starboard side. There wasn’t much commotion at first, but as we approached, we saw ten men vigorously waving at us with flags, shirts, and whatever they could find. As we pulled within earshot, the captain called down and exchanged a few words I could hardly hear. Apparently, the men claimed to have been robbed of their engines. It was less of a surprise to the captain and crew, as it was to me. I’ve since learned that it does happen regularly off Ecuador’s coast thanks to small groups of bandits that prey upon coastal fishermen in small boats. These fishermen aren’t in the game for profit, just to feed themselves and their families. We gave them sandwiches and water, as they’d apparently been adrift for three days with nothing to eat or drink, and towed them along behind us until an Ecuadorian naval vessel met us at sea and took them aboard.
After all that excitement, the remains of that first day and the next were relatively quiet as we set course for the open ocean. The only surprise being my discovery that the captain had real coffee on the ship, as based on last year’s experience, I expected we’d have only the instant stuff which I planned to avoid. It was a minor victory, but one I have since enjoyed every day.
As we traveled west Friday, we checked one or two FADs the crew had set afloat months before, but none proved to have enough fish to bother setting the fishing gear. Late in the day, we had to take a detour to San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands. This was my second time in the Galapagos and I was hoping to have a chance, my first, to go ashore. But we spent our day moored in the anchorage of Bahia Naufragio (Shipwreck Bay). The night ended with a Sunday barbeque on deck, apparently a weekly tradition. It proved to be a long night as I stayed up late (trying to) talk with the captain and crew about life in the US and Ecuador. The next morning, as the rain had lifted and the sun beat down, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could go ashore for a few hours. I grabbed my camera and a few dollars before jumping into a sea taxi with a couple of the guys. It was pretty quiet in town as we walked the streets in search of pizza and ceviche, while checking out a couple souvenir shops along our way. After about two hours, we were back aboard and within another two hours, the anchor was pulled and we set out to sea.
We’re heading west, hanging onto the equator, in search of tuna. The crew has been building and setting new FADs, while I’ve been working on some writing. We haven’t stopped at many FADs, as it seems our plan is to head further to sea to find some in the west. With any luck, we’ll start fishing soon.