We are now a week into the trip and starting to get quite familiar with life on-board and the work! Our shifts are spent below deck in the wet lab sorting the catch and entering biological data for each species of fish, sharks, invertebrates and everything we catch. It’s fascinating seeing the difference between shallow water and deep sea catches, how much the diversity changes and the abundance of species drops or explodes.
The tally of fish measured is now over 42,000. So far we have caught 270 different species or groups. This includes the baby stargazer in the above image.
We have encountered a couple of deeper areas with (previously unknown) concentrations of vulnerable marine ecosystem (VME) fauna such as corals and sponges which have been sampled for the National Invertebrate Collection at NIWA. We are also trialling collection of live sponges as part of the MBIE Endeavour-funded Chatham Rise research programme involving Victoria University and NIWA and others on ‘Resilience of Deep-Sea Benthic Fauna to Sedimentation from Seabed Mining’. This involves holding live sponges in a flow-through aquarium system onboard.
After the survey, the data will be added to 24 previous surveys to make the longest running fisheries survey in New Zealand. This work allows us to make estimates of fish stock abundance and distribution, determining the health or issues with our fisheries. Results of this may be used to alter fish catch allowances for the industry, and to better understand species interactions, food chains and deep sea ecology.
BLAKE NIWA Ambassador 2017