Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Farallones 2010 white shark expedition

The 2010 TOPP white shark tagging expedition to the Farallon Islands was lead by Dr. Salvador Jorgensen and began on October 7 aboard the S.R.V. Derek M. Bayliss.

We kicked off the 2010 season with 3 consecutive days of beautiful weather. With the uncharacteristic calm weather and sunshine after morning low fog, the Farallones appear a much more hospitable place.

The water is teaming with life. We see ctenophores (jellies), krill, blue, humpback and grey whales, thousands of seals and sealions, and of course, white sharks.

This is a group of blue whales we encountered early morning.

A white shark pops up to the surface.

We have seen numerous predation events this year, sometimes three in a single day. The sharks hang out and are just waiting around the perimeter of the island for their chance to catch a seal off-guard as it transits between the open ocean and the dry haul-out on the craggy island.

A large female, finishes off a ~300 lbs elephant seal - this is one of four bites!

We download the acoustic receivers, which are stationed around the island. The data indicate that the sharks had left the Farallones months earlier than normal in 2009. Perhaps they are particularly keen to build back up their energy stores after last years short and lean season.

We were joined this year by Captain Mark Kocina, from Sealife Conservation, who we are very happy to welcome to the project. Mark made a great first impression by serving up gormet lunches BBQ'd on the stern of the boat!

Captain Mark Cocina and crew Kathy Carnie (Note BBQ in the background)

We have been grounded for almost a week with high winds, but finally made it back out to the Island for another couple of days to finish out the season.

A shark approaches the skiff and tagging pole is ready

The season was a success, and we are already looking forward to next year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

GTOPP in Antarctica

Dr. Dan Costa from UC Santa Cruz has his team down on the ice right now tagging and tracking seals.  We're working with him to get some photos and blogs (his Facebook album from the trip is AMAZING!!!), but in the mean time here are a couple of teasers...
A pair of emperor penguins near the edge of the ice (c)Dan Costa

A mother and pup Weddell seal (c)Dan Costa
UC Santa Cruz Professor Dan Costa (left), with his
tagging team in Antarctica (c)Dan Costa

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Maple Leaf Giants

With Fall colors blooming and Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton, Canada the TAG team continued efforts to place Pop Up satellite (PAT)  tags in Canadian bluefin tuna in the waters off Port Hood Nova Scotia.

Led by vessels from Gulf of Nova Scotia and PEI fleets the team plied the waters that ranged from calm to high seas for 3 and one half days of fishing.
The Neptuna, Captained by Ross Kues, provided a steady
stream of bluefin along with the other boats.

Eleven tags were deployed on 9 bluefin tuna. Some were nice large fish similar to what the team had tagged in September.
Lip hook master Robbie Schallert comes
face to face with a giant bluefin.

When a tuna is brought on deck, its eyes are covered
and fresh sea water is pumped over its gills to keep it healthy and calm.
Others were surprisingly small- similar to the large class of 8 year old fish that TAG scientists placed 52 archivals in earlier in the year in the waters off North Carolina.  Pop up satellite tags and acoustic tags were deployed and some fish carried a new mini-PAT tag from Wildlife Computers.  Tags will pop up after 210-300 days at sea revealing the mysteries of giant bluefin.
Another giant is measured as it comes on board.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

TAG Team Canada Reports In

The TAG Team in Canada with Dr. Steve Wilson, Dr. Mike Stokesbury and Sir Robbie Schallert had a superstart to our Canadian Campaign in Port Hood, Nova Scotia this past weekend. The team has tagged about a dozen large giants off Port Hood Nova Scotia. The efforts is made possible by the assistance of our great team of fishers from the Region (Captains Dennis Cameron, Bernie Chisholm, Steve Macinnis, Pete Sutherland, Bruce and Ross Kues) and the mates aboard all the vessels but particular Sheldon from the Bay Queen IV. The fish were outfitted with the latest Wildlife Computers MK10 Pop Up Satellite Tags carefully positioned for a journey that might take these instrumented fish to their natal spawning grounds.

Weather was flat calm and the fishing was consistent. As the weather turned the fishing slowed down and now the Tag team is waiting for a weather break having successfully avoided Hurricane IGOR. Go TEAM Tuna!
-Dr. Barbara Block

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Few New Sharks!

The past couple of weeks have been very active for GTOPP, with our friends at NOAA having deployed two tags on shortfin mako sharks off Southern California, and Stanford graduate student Aaron Carlisle putting out seven more on salmon sharks in the Gulf of Alaska.  Steve Miller, formerly of Google and soon to be a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara, has been helping us to capture these new tags in near-real time -- so each day when you look at the interactive map, or at the maps on the individual species pages for each shark, you'll be seeing where the shark was located within the last 24 hours.  Congratulations to everyone for getting some new tags out in the water!

Next week marks the launch of the 51st Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament in Kona, Hawaii -- and the start of the 2010 Great Marlin Race.  Dr. George Shillinger and I will be there for the whole week, working with the boat captains, crews and anglers to deploy pop-up satellite tags on Pacific Blue Marlin.  You can follow the action on the Great Marlin Race website, and as we start getting marlin tracks from the race I'll be posting them here as well - so stay tuned!


Friday, July 16, 2010

One whale shark down, but more to come!

I got a note from Eric Hoffmayer earlier today - he was looking at the temperature data coming from the whale shark tags, and recognized that one of the tags had evidently floated free of the shark, and was just drifting at the surface. So to prevent confusion we pulled that track off the maps, and are now just tracking one of the whale sharks.

He will be returning to the field, however, with 10 additional tags to put out. So we are hoping that we'll be following some other whale sharks in the Gulf soon!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Launching the GTOPP Website

It has been an exciting week, beginning with the news that Drs. Eric Hoffmayer and Sylvia Earle encountered hundreds of whale sharks in the northern Gulf of Mexico, near the site of the Deepwaer Horizon oil spill, and successfully tagged several of them with electronic tags. Working with Eric we were able to get access to the near-real time data coming in from the two sharks tagged with "Smart Position-Only Tags" (SPOT tags), and we decided that, ready or not, it was time to take the Global Tagging of Pelagic Predators website (gtopp.org) live to share the data.

With help from lots of friends at Google, NOAA, Mission Blue, the University of Southern Mississippi, Sun Powered Productions and our own team here at Hopkins, we got the site launched and have been adding new content to it all week long. It has been really exciting time, and we are really looking forward to continuing to add more content, and to developing new ways of sharing this information with our scientific colleagues, as well as educators and students, journalists and bloggers, and explorers of all kinds around the world.

In the weeks ahead we will be adding new information to the site, including data from our archival datasets and incoming data from upcoming expeditions by us and our scientific colleagues. We will be exploring different ways of displaying tracking data and the oceanographic data that surrounds it. And we will be striving always to keep things interesting, informative and engaging.

So with thanks to everyone who has helped us get here, and to anyone who is reading this and considering joining us on this journey, I offer the following words from Mark Twain:
Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Best wishes for the holiday weekend!