This entry comes courtesy of our Ministry of Fisheries observer, Marli.
I am one of two observers on the vessel Antarctic Chieftain. In relation to the vessel’s permit, two Observers are taken every summer on each vessel. We do 12-hour shifts so each 24 hours is covered. It is a great job and I feel very lucky to have been able to be an Observer during the Ross Sea Antarctic Toothfish season on 3 other occasions.
It is a long time to be at sea especially when you know there is a warm sea, flowering Pohutukawa and the sound of Cicadas that you are missing at home. What doesn’t help either is the odd feeling of groundhog day but then along comes another iceberg, a group of comical Adele penguins, a Whale, a Crabeater seal or another amazing ‘almost’ sunset and your day is made. And it is day – even though my shift is from midnight till midday – as the sun doesn’t really set.
My tasks include measuring a lot of Toothfish, sexing and staging and collecting Toothfish ear bones that land-based Scientists use to tell the age of the fish the bone was taken from. We also try to check the contents of as many Toothfish stomachs as possible as one of our tasks includes collecting fish specimens for an amazing team of people at the Te Papa Fish Museum. Sometimes a Toothfish stomach provides a barely digested fish that ends up in a jar on a shelf as an important specimen.
The vessels I have been on have taken great pride in being part of this process and along with tagging data have provided an amazing amount of information and specimens that have helped the scientists to have a greater understanding of the ecology of the Ross Sea.
I also get to wear a survival suit everyday and stand out in the bracing elements conducting observations on the line hauled and the line set. It is like wearing your own tent so it is quite comfortable and good for the soul to get some outside time even if it’s only your eyes that are exposed. I am enjoying my trip so far on the Antarctic Chieftain and am looking forward to our journey further into the Ross Sea.