I’ve recently got back from another Cefas research trip, where I was lucky enough to get to sail around the western channel searching for fish! The survey was a bit different from the one I did in July but we saw a lot of interesting things and had a lot of fun!
We set off from Lowestoft in the early hours of the 3rd March (my birthday!), heading through the north sea and eastern channel before starting our sampling from around Portland. This survey is slightly different from the other ones undertaken by Cefas as it is based on a random sampling design rather than going to the same stations year on year to sample. Whilst this method is good as it can help to reduce the bias in the way we sample and means we can get a more holistic understanding of the abundances and distributions of species over the whole area, it does mean that things can get a little tricky at times as we may never have fished there before and so the ground may be difficult to pull the nets over or there may be other obstacles such as wrecks. Overall though I think it’s a much better sampling strategy to have!
The other difference of this survey was that instead of pulling one net along, we had two, meaning we had more fish to sort! The two nets are different, allowing people to then make comparisons between gear efficiency and other technical aspects (which admittedly go a bit over my head!).
Anyway, let’s talk about the fish! We caught a lot of similar species to those in the eastern channel trip (plaice, sole, gurnards etc), but we also got others which I hadn’t seen yet or some in bigger quantities. I did think that there seemed to be a lot more variety in the things that we caught, whether this is true or not I will have to read up on. Species highlights for me were: sting ray (yes, you read that right – we were surprised too!), nursehound, boarfish, Couch’s bream (very pretty and soon became my favourite British fish species!), three bearded rockling (very cute) and some very excitable slipper lobsters. We also got to see common dolphins which were lovely to watch. I’ve put together a gallery of some pictures from the trip.
Some species we tagged and put back (such as the rays and some sharks) whilst others we took biological samples from and took their otilths – this information is used to inform the stock assessments of commercial species such as sole. I got a bit quicker at doing that and maturing the fish to determine what life stage they were at, although for some I still need practice (such as monks and gurnards)! It was really great to be back out there though, especially being in the south west – sitting at a desk in the office isn’t quite the same!
The two weeks went relatively quickly, time seems to go very fast (and slow!) when you’re at sea. Luckily we had a lovely science and boat crew to keep us going, with a lot of cake consumed! We finally docked into Falmouth after sampling along the English and French coastlines on the 17th March for change over day, as the boat and a new crew then went on to sample into the celtic sea.
All in all, another fantastic trip and grateful to Cefas for letting me aboard! Hopefully that wasn’t the last time I’ll be on the Endeavour…! For me now, it’s back to the stats..