Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 8

Goliath on the Reef
         aboard the R/V Falkor

Artificial reef sites surveyed today in the Gulf of Mexico were abundant with life. Co-chief scientist, Matthew Ajemian sat in the control room with the ROV (remotely operated vehicle) operators, Toshi and Jamie, to direct the dive. As the ROV descended on our first site approximately 30 meters deep, Matt helped guide Jamie to the first designated transect. Before arriving at the reef the first glimpse of life appeared. A school of fish called lookdowns swam in front of the cameras. From the science control room, Megan Robillard and PhD student Judd Curtis began to identify the species and log the times the fish were spotted by viewing the video live on several large monitors from this room. They saw horse-eye jack, large schools of gray and red snapper, creole fish, hogfish, blue and rainbow runners, amberjack, butterfly fish, blue angelfish, barracuda, scamp (type of grouper), and spadefish.

At the end of the first dive the ROV came across a stairwell on the underwater rig and hiding behind it was a very large animal that was immediately identified by Judd. The science control room lit up as the goliath grouper slowly decided to show us a glimpse of his size. Using the built in lasers Dr. Matt Ajemian was able to estimate the size of this fish which was at least 4 feet! After visiting two other sites the fisheries team was able to capture the best video footage they have seen of these artificial reefs and the video will be analyzed further to get a good population count from all sites.

Tonight the crew and scientists gathered outside on the second deck to hear from PhD student, David Tupaj as he spoke about the socio-economics of the Rigs to Reefs Program along the Gulf Coast. After viewing the rigs today the topic of the economics of these structures fit well and after the talk we played video from the dive for the crew to see the massive grouper and all the life on the reef.

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