Some people call them skates or Stingrays, the Ocean Research Project team is looking for the cownose ray. A species that has experienced an increase in population due to the gradual decrease of their main predator, sharks. We are 7 days into conducting our Bay-Wide Biotelemetry Survey. We started near Jamestown 20+ miles up the James River and will be working our way to Annapolis after about 300 miles of acting as a mobile listening station. What does that mean? Probably sailing the bay under 2.0 knots, with one sail up but reefed. We are using multiple ultrasonic telemetry & tracking receivers underway and on anchor to occupy areas that have the potential for detecting marine species. There are many fixed receivers on buoys, bridge supports, and piers that line the shorelines of the bay. They can only detect a half a mile radius from their fixed location leaving a lot of uncovered area where tagged species are getting by unnoticed.
The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) has tagged cownose rays throughout the bay this summer and we hope to make their acquaintance really soon. One of our devices has a speaker that will actually let you hear when we have a visitor! When we sailed down the James we had multiple detections that were likely all sturgeon. There have been a variety of marine species (invasive and native) to the bay that bay scientists have tagged for research purposes including: Rays, sturgeon, bass, blue crabs, and blue catfish.
I hope we detect a variety of species in this survey. All of our detection data will make its way back to those scientists responsible for the tagged species. This information will shed light on the habits and migratory activity of these species which will allow bay scientists to better advise bay fishery resource managers who have the ability to modify regulation.
We are excited to have our 1st high school intern from Anne Arundel County Public School on the project. Aaron is busy acting as the data manager or Fish Spy Analyst and is stationed at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center creating a detection map with Google Earth as we send him available data.
Mid-summer wind in the bay is minimal. We have been lucky that the winds fill in often in the evening allowing us to survey at night but leaving us on the hook during the day. We have become partially nocturnal. A few days ago our dinghy escaped! We had to book it in the middle of the night to a safe anchorage as a thunderstorm threatened to run us down. The next morning the bow u-bolt for our dinghy was all that was left on its line. Some eastern shore waterman will have a good find this week. Unfortunately, that leaves our boat without a little boat. This hiccup partially severs our tie to landside conveniences. So if you see us on anchor, come by and say hi!project. Aaron is busy acting as the data manager or Fish Spy Analyst and is stationed at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center creating a detection map with Google Earth as we send him available data.
Today we explore the York River where Virginia Institute of Marine Science VIMS helped tag and release rays for SERC. Tomorrow we hope the winds are favorable to start making our way up the bay potentially towards the Rappahannock or Tangier/Smith, areas where oyster & eel grass may attract our friends!
Matt and VR2W pre- receiver launch
Testing receivers with pinging tag.