Monday, June 15, 2009

Catalina Above and Below

I went on a fantastic boat trip to Catalina this weekend. It was part of a special program with the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and it was a great hands on experience. We first went to pick up a series of fish traps which had been set out the day before. The first trap was set 500 feet down, and was filled with hagfish.

This was one of the first times I got to handle one of these amazing fish. They produce copious amounts of slime, as you can see from the picture. The slime had a very fibrous feel to it, which surprised me but made a bit of sense as the slime has many protein fibers. The fish themselves are very smooth and soft.

The second set of traps was set in a shallower, rocky reef area. We caught a ton of lobsters and California moray eels. We were looking for two gravid lobsters for the aquarium's lobster rearing program. These lobsters have never been successfully reared in captivity, especially as the larvae spend one year in the water column before settling out into the ground. The aquarium were able to raise the larvae for six months last year, and are hoping to go longer this year.

We also caught a horn shark. His teeth were purplish, a sure sign that this horn shark was snacking on sea urchins. After returning the fish we got from the traps, we headed over to a kelp forest by the isthmus of Catalina. There the divers went down to capture some fish and invertebrates to bring up for us to see. They also videotaped their dive, so that we could see what they saw when they went down.

They brought up several fish, including Garibaldis, a Rock wrasse, and a Senorita wrasse. They also brought up this cute baby Sheephead. On the invert side, they got some sea star, urchins, and snails. After that, we docked at the isthmus for lunch and a quick hike.

We hiked across the island, and got a peak at one of the Bison the inhabit the island. They were brought to the island in the 1920's for a movie, and were left there. It was really neat to see this guy, which was so close to the foot path.

Our final event of the day was cumming for sharks. We put out some chopped up mackerel an other fishes and were visited by three blue sharks, a large female and male, and a smaller one who's sex I couldn't identify.

The large male was approximately 7-8 feet long, and the female was a similar size. We also had some mackerel on a string, to get the sharks to jump up to get them. It was a pretty cool. The boat trip there and back was pretty eventful too. We spotted a bunch of sea birds and some blue whales.

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