While the catches heading south in the near-shore stations were dominated by massive, mature females, the trawls heading back north through the offshore stations have hit the mother load. I’ve been frantically trying to get data on all the smaller and male sharks while I’m still in North Carolina waters so I can even out the demographics on my study. Unfortunately there are fewer sampling stations heading north so I’m trying to do more with less while hopefully preventing any one tow from biasing the data.
Which is tough to do when some of the tows look like this:
Also, these tows present a frustrating catch-22 for sampling design. Doing my sampling during a working research cruise means I need to fit it in between tows when I can. Not only that but I often need an extra pair of hands to take down data and/or hold bags to get this done with any appreciable efficiency, which necessitates someone else having some free time. Working up a tow this size eats up most of the time until the next one, and only in drastic situations will the ship break procedure and hold off on the next haul. So while the catch shown in the picture contained several demographics and literally thousands of sharks, I only had time to lavage fifteen of them before the net came in for the next station.
The North Carolina sampling is pretty much done at this point, so now I get to relax in my off-watch and take stock of what I’ve recorded. There is still some deep water sampling off of Virginia and Delaware, so stay tuned and see if we catch anything interesting. It’s been quite the ride and it’s not over yet.