Archive for the ‘Colossal Squid’ Category

22nd November 2009

November 24, 2009
During the last month we have all been busy with preparations for the 2009-10 Ross Sea Toothfish season.

It all starts in Hobart where CCAMLR (Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) members gather every year. Scientists and government officials from around the world convene to set and agree on sustainable catch allocations for all fishing within the CCAMLR jurisdiction. This includes area 88.1 and 88.2 which we regard as our Ross Sea fishery.

For us, the outcome was great….. Once again, all four New Zealand vessels were allocated licenses and the scientists have recommended a slight increase for the total allowable Toothfish catch for the coming season. But, there are a few more regulations and research requirements attached to our permit conditions this season.

The CCAMLR round of negotiations is followed by another meeting in Wellington just before we sail for the Ross Sea. This time, representatives from MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade), MFISH (Ministry of Fisheries), the Observer Program, NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmosphere), SEAFIC (Seafood Industry Council), RCCNZ (Rescue Coordination Centre NZ), LINZ (Land Information NZ) and our team from the ITC (Industry Toothfish Committee) all get together to make sure everyone is up to speed with the latest research and permit requirements. Every year the number of participants to this meeting increases, this time there were around 43 people attending and everyone was involved in some way with the Ross Sea Toothfish Fishery.

Francois lining up with people from the Observer program, NIWA, Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Fishery for lunch.

Jeff (Skipper of Janas for Sealord), Pete (Skipper of San Aotea II), Me, Greg (Sanford Deep Water Fleet manager), Trevor (MFAT), Jack (Sanford research and developments).

We sail south on Sunday 22nd November 12:00hrs…..by all accounts I don’t think we have to go far to see our first ice berg.

Rgds: John B.

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22nd June 2009

June 24, 2009

We’re back aboard the FV San Aspiring now and heading for the Toothfish grounds around South Georgia in the Southern Ocean. Sue (my wife), has joined us for her 3rd season in the South Georgia fishery. It’s good to catch up with our regular crew after my 7 month refit and maiden voyage aboard the Antarctic Chieftain.

At the end of the Antarctic season Sue and I had a great break at home with family and friends, in early April we became grandparents for the first time, Bella is now 11 weeks old and growing fast. We imagine she will be crawling by the time we get home.

We met the 16 man relief crew at Auckland airport on the 18th June for the 12hr flight to Santiago (Chile) where we spent 2 nights before catching the next flight to Punta Arenas then on to the Falkland Isl on 20th, (there is only one flight a week to the Island.)

San Aspiring alongside the floating wharf in Port Stanley, Falkland Island

San Aspiring alongside the floating wharf in Port Stanley, Falkland Island

San Aspiring started the South Georgia season back in February when the crew sailed her from Timaru to Port Stanley in the Falklands then on to South Georgia for licensing before the start of the fishing season. Most of that crew are now heading home after 3 ½ months fishing while our team take over to finish catching our remaining quota then bring the ship home, sometime in September / October, depending on fishing results.

Rgds: John B.

20th January 2009

January 22, 2009

This season in the Ross Sea is shaping up to be similar to last season with a slow thaw and more sea ice that usual. However, there are other areas that are showing quicker thawing patterns in places that don’t normally open up until the end of February, or just before the ocean starts freezing over again in early March.

All vessels in the Ross Sea fishery have now been notified by CCAMLR that the total allowable catch has almost been reached in two of the three main areas and that we can expect the second area closure notification within the next few days. When this happens we must all have our lines out of the water by the designated date and time and then make moves to exit the closed area.

The last fishing area available to us now is in the southern part of the Ross Sea where catchers are normally much slower than further north. We anticipate the whole of the Ross Sea fishery will close within the next week. After that many of us will head home but some will move to other areas and keep hunting for more fishing grounds.`We are one of the lucky ones that get to stay on and search for new grounds.

Antarctic Chieftain lifting floats aboard with her deck crane. We use a string of floats so when the ice drifts over them they easily pass under the ice and pop up on the other side of the floes. This photo was taken from aboard San Aspiring; they are also fishing in a similar area to us.

Antarctic Chieftain lifting floats aboard with her deck crane. We use a string of floats so when the ice drifts over them they easily pass under the ice and pop up on the other side of the floes. This photo was taken from aboard San Aspiring; they are also fishing in a similar area to us.

she isn’t as flash as the Antarctic Chieftain but the colour scheme does help J.

The San Aspiring: she isn’t as flash as the Antarctic Chieftain but the colour scheme does help J.

Rgds:  John B.

16th January 2009

January 16, 2009

As well as retaining all our domestic rubbish aboard for disposal ashore, and burning whatever we can in the incinerator, we must also keep aboard all offal from the factory after the fish are processed. Even the little bits that fall on the factory deck, and any bait that comes back on the hooks, or is left over after the lines are set, must be kept aboard and only discarded once we are on the way home, outside CCAMLR waters and, preferably, before we re-enter New Zealand waters.

To do this we pass the offal through an industrial mincer, a machine which grinds the offal into a paste – like porridge. It’s then pumped into one of four huge refrigerated holds aboard the ship. These holds have been specially modified to store the offal and even though the chief tries to maintain the offal temperature at between -2 and +2 degrees centigrade it still gets pretty smelly after three months.

As this is only the Antarctic Chieftain’s second voyage after her total refit in Nelson between June and August 2008, it was necessary to carry two chief engineers. Beginning next voyage, Pete and Karl will rotate between trips.

Karl is a bit camera-shy, but I managed to get a shot while he was test-running the emergency fire pump the other day.

Karl is a bit camera-shy, but I managed to get a shot while he was test-running the emergency fire pump the other day.

Rgds: John B.

8th December 2008

December 8, 2008

We have been fishing for 4 days now on a deep ridge just north of the ice edge, around 65 30s 178 30w. Results are slow as these areas are notoriously difficult to work. Foul grounds with many rocky outcrops and under sea pressure ridges that snag our lines on the bottom and, above that, strong currents combine to create real challenges for fishermen in these latitudes.

Many of the depths we work are between 1,400 and 2,000m, that’s a mile down and a long way to haul a longline from. Usually it takes about 1½ hours just to get the anchor up!

Several fish on one of the lines we hauled today came up showing signs of encounters with Colossal Squid, 1,850m down. The attached photos are showing Matt, one of our crew, holding a 35kg Toothfish that has been attacked while hooked on the line.  You can see the huge sucker marks and the giant sized bites left by the Squid as she ate lunch.

Matt holding a toothfish with evidence of a Colossal Squid bite

Matt holding a toothfish with evidence of a Colossal Squid bite

Occasionally a Toothfish will come aboard with remains of Squid in its stomach, indicating that, this time round, the toothfish had won the struggle.

Rgds: John B.