Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 4 - Lovells Island

We started early day because we wanted to see as much as we could as well as get in some good fishing. We started at the dock next to the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse, where we got on the Boston Belle at 8:35am. As we began our journey, we noted the surroundings. The water was calm and bluer than the previous two days. This was because the sky today was much more clear than previous days. So the bluer and clearer the sky, the more blue is reflected off the water to give the appearance of bluer water.

Around 9:00am we arrived at our first fishing spot. We were close to Castle Island, and fishing in about 42-46.4 feet depth. Everyone that wanted to fish was given the opportunity to fish. Soon the boat was covered with fishing rods and a plethora of fish. The most common fish that was caught was the Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata). We caught a range of sizes, from about six inches to about fifteen inches long. I learned from Captain Charlie that black sea bass are hermaphrodites, meaning that they are born as females and grow to be males. They start as “blonde” females and are turquoise, brown and black in color. These females are lighter (more brown) when they are in the light as well, and black when they are on the bottom of the ocean because of the reduced amount of light that penetrates down. The coloration of the young females is really interesting and allows for a good transition of coloring for these females and allows them to camouflage themselves really easily. As the black sea bass transition from female to male, their coloring becomes darker, to totally black when they are full males and they also grow a lump on their head as they get bigger. Interestingly enough, about 20 years ago, when Professor Berman was fishing in these same areas, he would only catch three black sea bass. Whereas today we caught bunches of them. This changed about three years ago when the black sea bass became more abundant. Now they are very common, which shows that they are migrating to the Boston Harbor. This is likely because the water here is getting warmer than it used to be, so they are moving to the new feeding/breeding grounds. Here we also caught some smaller fish, Bregals (a pearly/brown color) and sea perch, as well as an Atlantic Mackerel (Scomber scombrus). Now what we did with the Mackerel was interesting. We took the Mackerel (a silvery gray fish with a white belly) and put a hook through its nose and used it to catch bigger fish.

While en route to our next fishing spot, Professor Berman took a fifteen inch black sea bass and dissected it, to show us about the inside of fish. This black sea bass was just changing into a male, which was very interesting to see. When dissecting the stomach, we saw that there was a small shrimp in its stomach (recently eaten). We also learned that black sea bass have small and thin scales. In order to eat the skin of the sea bass, you would have to remove the scales because the scales are not edible like the skin is.

We then arrived at our second destination, which was between Long Island and Spectacle Island. This area is a fish safe haven. There are cement pyramids that were put together like Lincoln Logs that protects the fish here. After we learned that, the fishing again began. Again, the boat was full of sea worms and fishing rods. It was here though that Antoine hooked a Striped bass (Morone saxatillis). We got it out by pulling it up close to the surface and then catching it in an actual net. Which was cool to watch. This Striped bass was 30 inches long and covered in sea lice. Sea lice are only found on fish in open water. So this showed that the bass must’ve been in open water and it was just coming into the Harbor to feed. Here again we caught a lot of black sea bass (which we put back in the water)

We then continued on to Lovells Island, to explore the tide pools. We got to the tide pools at 11:30am. Low tide today was at 10:50am (according to a time table), so we got to the tide pools just past low tide. We actually started looking at the tide pools around 12:20pm when the tide was coming in. Doing the normal general observations, I noticed that the water was cooler and less transparent than the water closer into Boston itself. The beach here was very rocky, with rocks ranging from pebbles to cobbles (there were some larger ones too) as well as some sand. But after swimming for a bit (which was extremely refreshing and very nice), I began to explore the tide pools. I found many different species here. First, there was a lot of the bright green algae (which marked the high tide level) as well as rockweed, which was larger here than at the Barking Crab (observed the other day). There were also a lot of barnacles here. I was able to tell that these barnacles were the Northern Rock Barnacle (Semibalarus balanoides) because when you looked at them closely, they had a very scalloped edge, which is the major difference between the two types of barnacles that are found in Boston. One of the other really common organisms that I found were Periwinkles. These periwinkles (small snail shell) were very dark in color, ranging it seemed from brown to black. This showed me that these are the Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea). There were also some hermit crabs as well as other crabs in these tidal pools. There were lots of little tiny baby Green Crabs (Carcinus maenas) that I could identify because of their intense green color. There were also a couple Asian Shore Crabs (Hemigrapsus sanguineus), which I could tell because of the reddish color of the shell along with the red spotted claws and banded legs. There were also lots of different shore birds (and seagulls of course) flying around the beach area. Finally, there were a lot of Steamer Clam/Soft Shell Clam (Mya arenaria) shells, but only shells. The reason that we only found shells is because clams live in the subtidal zone, and tide pools are in the intertidal zone. So the shells were left over from some animal’s meal and moved by the waves and tides.

After having lunch (in the shade!), we went further down the beach to our second tidal pool area. Before getting there, Professor Berman asked why there are fewer tunicates on Lovells Island than there used to be. This is because these tunicates start swimming, smack into rocks and then attach themselves. But, they can be knocked off and things can keep them from attaching. Storms are also a big reason of why there are fewer. But, besides the same organisms as in the last tidal pool (hermit crabs, rockweed, periwinkles, crabs and barnacles) but we did see some tunicates. Because of the bright orange color and colony living as well as flower shape, I identified this tunicate as the Orange Sheath Tunicate. This is one of the tunicates that we found at the Barking Crab the other day as well.

After finishing in the tide pools, we walked back to the Belle. But along the way we found a few terrestrial snails. We had seen some snail shells before while we were on the beach on the rusty old wheel (or whatever it was). These shells were broken open and we were unsure as to why. And what exactly these shells were. Upon seeing the live land snails we discovered that these are terrestrial land snails, not periwinkles as originally thought. Upon even further investigation we discovered that this snail had a stripe on its shell, a darker black stripe than the rest of the snail shell, which was a lighter brown and creamy color. When I was researching these snails, it seems to be be a white lipped snail. We then headed back to the Belle to head back to the docks.

On the way back we dissected the large striped bass aught earlier today. Captain Charlie started by slitting it down the backbone and creating two filets (one from each side). We could tell this bass was a female because there was a lot of roe in the fish. Also, in the stomach of this bass there was some shrimp (shrimp seems to be a common food for these bass). Overall this dissection was very informative. We also learned on the way back that Flounder, in this case Summer Flounder or Fluke (Paralichthys dentatus) start with their eyes together at the top of their head, but then the eyes migrate to either the left or right side of their head, creating virtually two different species of flounder – right eyed flounder and left eyed flounder. Oh, and I also got to drive the boat part of the way back... That was so fun!

Our final question is how are Lovells Island and the docks at the Barking Crab similar/different? It seems to me that they are very similar. There are similar organisms in both areas, making them seem very similar. But, there were more plants at the dock than on the island. This could be due to increased wave action on the beachfront than on the bottom of the dock. However, in my opinion, neither the docks at the Barking Crab  nor Lovells Island is necessarily more diverse or healthy. Both the environments are diverse and very healthy, they’re just different. There will be different organisms that are on the docks because the docks are closer to a large population of people whereas Lovells Island gets more wave action. But that doesn’t make it any better or worse.

Overall today was a wonderful day and I can’t wait for the adventures that are to come! I have had so many remarkable experiences so far, I can't wait for them to continue. Swimming today and looking at all the fascinating creatures was definitely the major highlight of the day. I also loved not only being on the boat, but driving it. That was my other major highlight.

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