Zostera marina is a seagrass species, commonly known as eelgrass, that is found on both coasts of the United States, as well as in Europe. Unfortunately, Zostera is disappearing all over the place, including right here in New York. This could have devastating impacts on animals that rely on eelgrass as foraging grounds, or, as is the case with scallops, use it as a refuge from predation. This is its story, as seen through the eyes of an aspiring graduate student...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Working in the coal mine... (on the barge)

Well, yesterday I worked on the barge - its a boat built by S.P.A.T. volunteers working with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. It is used mainly for the scallop restoration work, and is equipped with a motorized winch and a star wheel for hauling up lines weighed down by hundreds of lantern nets full of scallops.

This time of the year, the majority of scallops in the nets have spawned at least once, so they need to be relocated to make room for the next batch of scallops to grow-out before overwintering. It can be a labor intensive process as the nets are heavily weighed down by fouling organisms, in particular sea squirts. It is essentially pulling up a net full of scallops, as well as hundreds of little water packets (the squirts) so the nets get pretty heavy. Then, most of the squirts need to be knocked off before the bags can be opened and the scallops dumped on deck, so it is also a very messy process, and sometimes, not very easy as an invasive sea squirt, Styela clava,

have very strong attachment points to the nets and to shells within the nets. Once the nets are cleaned and the scallops dumped onto deck, they need to be released to the bottom.

Some of the scallops are pretty fouled (the latter two were collected a day earlier),

but it adds to the camoflage for the scallops on the bottom. The nets also often have lots of little guests in them, including hundreds of grass shrimp and mud crabs, spider crabs, cunner and tautog, and even sculpin.

Sometimes we get pipefish and seahorses from the nets but this is more rare. Additionally, some of this years seed (scallops from earlier spawns this year) have set on the nets and grown very well.

All in all, it was a nice, messy day on the boat with some interesting things to see, including this awesome schooner, the Mary E, on our way home.

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