Mackerel / Summer Ecosystem Survey 2016

The route my boat is taking is the green line.
After three years I'm back at the Institute of Marine Research (Havforskningsinstiuttet) on the summer ecosystem survey on the hunt for mackerel in the Norwegian Sea. It was hard at first because I had to leave two days before Mom and Dad left Bergen. And since I had to leave before they did it made it a little hard to be excited to work on the boat again.

The view from my tiny plane.
I flew from Bergen to Stokmarknes (near Lofoten) with my colleagues. From Bodø to Stokmarknes we were transported in a tiny plane that was so small we weren't even assigned seats. The ticket just said "free seating" - a first for me. The views from the plane were great! When we got there we got to the boats and met the others who were continuing the survey. The institute hired two commercial fishing boats for the survey, and mine is called M. Ytterstad.

These boats make living and working at sea very comfortable. There is a "cinema room" and even a small gym. Our resident chef prepares delicious meals, and even a daily cake at 4PM to have with our coffee (which I learned to avoid three years ago to prevent weight gain HAHA). I was assigned the night shift: 2am - 8am and 2pm - 8pm. After a few days I found my rhytm and have even managed to work out sort of regularly.

Bad weather in the beginning.
The first few days are always a little bit rough trying to find my sea legs, but it didn't help that the weather was also rough in the beginning. I didn't get seasick, but I get very sleepy from the boat rocking in the waves, making it nearly impossible to work out. It's amazing how little one walks while working on a boat. You're pretty much restricted to just walking up and down stairs because of the way the ship is layed out, thus, why I think it is so important to get to exercise in the gym when I can.

We sample 100 fish in total. We try our best to release the ones
we know we won't get to as soon as possible.

The fish are hoisted up to weigh the total catch
before we sort out the different species.

This guy hitched a ride with some
seithe we caught in a deep pelagic
haul for blue whiting (kolmule)
Mackerel trawling occurs at fixed locations alonged pre-determined transects in the Norwegian Sea. This means that sometimes a trawl haul comes in on my shift, and sometimes not. Unfortunately, more of the hauls have come in for the other shift making the days go by quite slowly for me. I prefer being busy. When the day is divided into two shifts it makes the day feel twice as long since I sleep during both off shifts.

I haven't spotted any whales or too many exciting things in the trawl. We've gotten a couple of wolf fish, one squid and lots of seithe. That's about as exciting as it got so far. Still, it's fun getting mackerel and seeing how far north the distribution has spread. I did get some bioluminescent plankton one night, but of course it was the one time I didn't have my phone on me to get a picture.

Today is the 26th, and I will be back in Bergen on the 31st, but we have to be in Tromsø by the 30th to load everything from our boat onto the other one. I'm excited to get back to Marius and get Pancho back home too.

2:30AM and pulling in some fish on a calm morning.
Bjørnøya (Bear Island) in the distance.

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