Thursday, January 7, 2021

NECWA Intern Highlight - Jack Gerrior

 Highlight of one of NECWA'a Fall/Winter Interns, Jack Gerrior.

Jack Gerrior helping to clean the fish ladder at Wareham Street, Middleboro
Jack rescuing a frog trapped in one of the fish ladders at the Wareham Street ladder.

Hello there! I am a second class (2/C) cadet at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in the Marine Science, Safety, and Environmental Protection Program (MSSEP)and have been additionally pursuing a minor in Marine Biology. With the support of marine ecologist Professor William Hubbard, I have been able to work at the on-campus Aquaculture and Marine Sciences Laboratory where ongoing studies regarding marine species local to Cape Cod (i.e. Tautog, American Lobster, Black Sea Bass, and Deep Sea Scallops) are being conducted with other student-led research projects.

Jack necropsying a torpedo ray carcass in Provincetown, MA

I was first introduced to NECWA at a talk given by Krill at the Academy regarding her Ocean Sunfish Project, where she discussed the data she had been taking on Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) that had stranded each winter in Cape Cod Bay. Since the winter of 2019, I have volunteered to assist with the Mola Project by helping with data collection, rescues of live animals and necropsies, in addition to walking local beaches for cold-stunned Sea Turtles.

Jack finding a dead torpedo ray at Linnell Landing

Most recently, I have been a part of NECWAs most recent efforts to study Western Atlantic Torpedo Rays, which also strand in the winter in Massachusetts due to reasons that are yet to be fully understood. Working with Krill's nonprofit as part of a Coop this winter has brought me closer to working with these strange and less-understood marine animals than I could ever thought possible and I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity.

In the future following graduation, I hope to pursue a career with the NOAA Corps or with NOAA Fisheries and aim to help with the continued development of the torpedo ray monitoring program.

Western Atlantic Torpedo Ray necropsy In Provincetown near Shore Rd.

To learn more about Massachusetts Maritime Academy, click HERE.

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Electric Torpedo Ray of New England

The Shocking Ray of New England

Blog by Coleman Earner - December 21, 2020

Dead Torpedo Ray in Brewster, MA

Torpedo Rays are a genus of rays that are part of the Order Torpediniformes (electric rays). In reference to local sightings, the most commonly seen torpedo ray in the Cape Cod region is the Atlantic Torpedo (Torpedo nobiliana). They are cartilaginous fish (most similar to the structure of sharks and skates) with a flat and rounded disc-like structure. As suggested by their order, torpedo rays are most commonly known for their ability to discharge electricity of up to 220 volts from both pectoral fins (pectoral fins are flat and expanded and fused to the head area) as a self defense mechanism or as a means of capturing prey. Their feeding strategy consists of burying themselves under the sand and waiting for unsuspecting prey to wander by. 


Dead Torpedo Ray on a
Cape Cod Beach.

Torpedo Rays feed mainly on benthic/pelagic fish such as flounders, damselfish, and other small fish during the night. Depending on their size, a fully grown Atlantic Torpedo Ray may prey upon much larger fish such as small sharks, eels, and larger mullet fish. Atlantic Torpedo Rays are typically observed to grow 2-5 feet in length, but have been observed to grow as large is 70.9 inches. It is due to this large size and electrical discharge that larger predators rarely seek out Torpedo Rays for prey. In regards to their distribution, Atlantic Torpedo rays are found mainly on Atlantic coastlines ranging from Canada to Brazil as well as Scotland to Morocco in eastern regions. 
 

The identification of Torpedo Rays are crucial to ensuring the consistent reporting of stranded Torpedo Rays along the Cape Cod region. Torpedo Rays are most easily identified by their large caudal fin as well as their well rounded pectoral fins. Compared to other rays, the tail on the Torpedo Ray follows a more typical caudal fin structure rather than a whip-like structure seen in many other rays. In addition to this, their eyes are set much further forward than other rays. Their coloration is most commonly brown on their dorsal surface with white on their bottom surface. As stated previously, a shock organ is present within each pectoral fin which can discharge dangerous amounts of electricity. Because of this, attempting to save a live stranded torpedo ray proves to be much more difficult compared to other marine life. Some suggest that it is safe to gently grab the live animal by the tail and pull it back into deeper water. Dead Torpedo Rays are perfectly safe to touch for the carcass will not shock you. If you find a stranded Torpedo Ray, please report your sighting to NECWA by completing our online Torpedo Ray JotForm.  

 


Our conservation efforts to protect organisms such as the Torpedo Ray are indicative of their true significance to their ecosystem. As we have seen through the strandings of Ocean Sunfish and Sea Turtles, the absence of these organisms means drastic change for the ocean food web. In relation to the Torpedo Ray, they serve as one of the many controllers of larger fish populations with their ability to take down larger prey. If they were absent from the local ocean ecosystem, larger fish populations would surely dominate ocean ecosystems when considering the constantly growing threat to shark populations as well. In addition, Torpedo Rays have proven to yield new discoveries with our limited information on them. 

For example, in 2019,F. NeptalĂ­ Morales-Serna and others analyzed the discovery of a new species of copepod Echthrogaleus spinulus found on a Torpedo Ray. In order to further understand the significance of Torpedo Rays, our conservation and research efforts must be prioritized further. 



Among the well documented strandings of Mola mola, various species of Sea Turtles, and other marine life, Torpedo Rays remain one of the lesser known and less understood marine organisms that are reported to strand. However, a pattern noticed by NECWA is that Torpedo Rays typically strand each fall and early winter along with other marine animals like ocean sunfish and sea turtles. In addition to this, a majority of stranded Torpedo Rays documented bt NECWA appear to be female. Apart from this trend, there is very little information on the specific causes of Torpedo Ray strandings. While the conservation status of the Atlantic Torpedo Rays has not been evaluated, there is still growing concern as an increasing number of Torpedo Rays are stranding each season. Further research must be done in order to hypothesize the root cause of Torpedo Ray strandings. 

Our lack of knowledge on the biology and ecology of the Torpedo Rays and their cause of stranding increases the importance of collecting new stranding data. In order to ensure that Torpedo Rays and any other marine life are protected, it is crucial that any sightings are properly and quickly reported. NECWA proudly strives for the further research of Torpedo Rays and how we can assist with stranding relief efforts.

 

For more information on Torpedo Rays, refer to the studies and links below:


Turtle Journal - Shocking Discovery in Cape Cod’s Loagy Bay: Electric Torpedo Ray


Florida Museum Discover Fishes - Torpedo nobiliana


Biology and Ecology of rays in the Chesapeake Bay, Joseph W. Smith

 

 Fish Base - The Atlantic Torpedo Rays


Vineyard Gazette - Damn those Torpedos



Additional Papers on Torpedo Rays:


Morales-Serna, F.N., Crow, G.L., Montes, M.M. et al. Description of Echthrogaleus spinulus n. sp. (Copepoda: Pandaridae) parasitic on a torpedo ray from the central Pacific Ocean utilising a morphological and molecular approach. Syst Parasitol 96, 777–788 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11230-019-09885-5

 

A. Fraser-Brunner (1949) LXXIII.—Note on the electric rays of the genus Torpedo, Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 2:24, 943-947, DOI: 10.1080/00222934908654036

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

NECWA's new GoFundMe Campaign to Raise Money for Field Gear

Help Support NECWA through this new GoFundMe Campaign. 

To learn more and donate today, 
click HERE.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Thresher Shark Strandings on Cape Cod this Fall and early winter.



Thresher Sharks in Cape Cod, MA
By: Cory Farrelly
UMASS Dartmouth Intern

At the end of 2019, there were a number of Thresher Sharks washing ashore on Cape Cod beaches. Thresher Sharks are very unique sharks in the order Lamniformes, which are commonly called Mackerel Sharks. Threshers are easily identified by their extremely long caudal or tail-fin, which they use to stun their prey, making their prey easy to consume. Threshers can be found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. These species are highly migratory and can cover vast distances in a relatively short period of time. There are three species of Thresher Sharks: The Bigeye Thresher, Common Thresher and Pelagic Thresher. The Common Thresher is the largest species, reaching a length of 20ft and is the species that is found in New England waters. 


Dead Common Thresher Shark found in Wellfleet, MA
In the fall of 2019, I have responded to 2 stranded Thresher Sharks along the shores of Cape Cod. One shark was found in Uncle’s Tim’s Bridge on Duck Creek in Wellfleet. This shark was unfortunate enough to get trapped in a salt marsh during high tide. When the tide receded, the water most likely got too low for the shark and it could not survive. A local resident had actually seen the shark alive struggling to get out of the salt marsh a few days before. The shark was 6 feet 10 inches long. When we found the carcass, it was partially buried in the mud.
The second Thresher Shark carcass was found on Burton Baker beach in Wellfleet. The carcass was very fresh looking and had bled significantly through its gills. In addition to the blood from the gills, the shark had several marks along its body from Sea Lampreys. It also had interesting marks that appeared to be healed scrape marks on its side. The pectoral fins were completely buried in the sand, which suggested that it washed ashore then thrashed around and buried itself in the sand. This shark’s body was 7 feet long and with its tail it reached a length of 13 feet. 
All three species of Thresher Sharks are classified by the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) as vulnerable. Due to their low fecundity (the amount of offspring they can produce), it is difficult for these sharks to rebound from losses to their population. Thresher Sharks are vulnerable to fishing, both commercially and recreationally. Commercially, their livers are used for oil and their fins are used in shark fin soup. By-catch is also an issue. Every year, 50 million sharks are unintentionally caught and often killed by the fishing industry. Recreational fishing also has negative impacts for the act of being caught can cause undue stress and extreme exhaustion that the fish may not be able to recover from. Many shark populations struggle to rebound from fishing pressures due to their low fecundity and long gestation periods so killing millions every year is detrimental to their populations. Since threshers are found worldwide and are highly migratory, regulations on this species are nearly impossible to enforce because it would require cooperation among many countries. 
To help Thresher Sharks and many other shark species, become more knowledgeable by learning more about them. Limit your seafood consumption, especially various tuna species, and be a choosy consumer using the Seafood Watch app from Monterey Bay Aquarium. Also, do not purchase any shark products, including shark fin soup.  

References for Further Reading

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Ocean Exploration Cruise - Sunday, September 29, from 7 am to 1 pm

Tickets still available for this exciting offshore adventure:

Update on September 28, 2019 
  • The weather looks great for tomorrow so the trip is a GO!
  • Please be down at the 7 Seas Whale Watch dock parked and ready to board by 6:30 am for we will depart at 7:00 am sharp.
  • Dress in layers, wear a hat and bring sunglasses and binoculars if you would like. Cameras? Of course!
  • You can bring your own food and drink, but no alcohol. You can also purchase food and drinks from the galley so bring cash. I believe they also take credit cards, but cash is easier. 
  • We still have lots of room onboard so please continue to spread the word. If anyone want to join us, please have them register online. If there is no time for that, just have them come with cash or a check for payment. No credit cards. 
Looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow. Thank you again for supporting NECWA. This fundraising event will allow us to purchase gear and supplies for our many projects and activities. 

Best Krill 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ocean Exploration Cruise
Sunday, September 29, 2019
7 am - 1 pm
Leaves from Gloucester at the 7 Seas Whale Watch dock

TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE. 

Join us as we search the coastal waters off Massachusetts for marine wildlife of all kinds. NECWA's annual fall offshore expedition is a fun and exciting way to join experts offshore as we view marine wildlife in our coastal waters. 

Ocean Exploration Cruise - Fall 2019
Sailing Date: Sunday, September 29, 2019
Time: 7 am to 1 pm
Boarding Time: 6:30 am (we leave the dock at 7 am sharp!
Location: Boat leaves from Gloucester Harbor aboard the Privateer IV, 7 Seas Whale Watch

Join the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance (NECWA) for an offshore adventure to support marine wildlife education, research, and conservation. This excursion is a fundraising event for NECWA, an all-volunteer nonprofit based in southeastern MA.

Enjoy commentary from our guest naturalists onboard including: Wayne Petersen (Mass Audubon), Jim Sweeney (South Shore Bird Club), Thomas Robben (Hartford Audubon Society), and Dr. Adrian Jordaan (UMASS Amherst), as well as NECWA staff like Krill Carson, Leah Horeanopoulos, Dr. Tammy Silva and Michael O'Neil.

When offshore, we and collect data on seabirds, whales, dolphins, seals, sharks, ocean sunfish, and other marine animals. If weather allows, we chum for seabirds, and incorporate a number of environmental sampling stations into our agenda for the day. This data is shared with other researchers in the New England area to support their efforts.

NECWA will also provide a free nature-themed raffle to thank passengers for joining us. If you would like to donate a gently used or new item to the raffle, please drop it off to NECWA staff when boarding and thank you. 

To learn more about this exciting trip or to register online through our Constant Contact Event site, go to www.necwa.org and click on our Events page. There you will find a link to our Constant Contact Event site where you can learn more or register for the trip.

Adult tickets - $80
Student tickets - $65

For additional information, contact Krill Carson using the information below.

Best, Krill Carson
President, Marine Biologist, NECWA
krillcarson@mac.com
508-369-8303

Monday, August 19, 2019

Endangered Species Act - ENDANGERED!

Endangered Species Act Now Endangered


by Mel Edie


In 1973, the United States introduced the Endangered Species Act. This incredibly important legislation has served to conserve hundreds of threatened and endangered species as well as their habitats. Among the requirements to ensure successful protection include federal agencies working with environmental government services and the prohibition of "taking" (importing, exporting, etc) any of the listed species. To date, the Act protects over 1,600 domestic plant and animal species and has been 99% successful. However, under the Trump Administration, the strongest law protecting our biodiversity may itself be in danger. 

                        
1- Bald Eagle is one of the species negatively impacted by these policy changes.

To read more about the Endangered Species Act, follow this link:  https://www.fws.gov/endangered/laws-policies/

            This week, President Trump and the U.S. Department of Interior announced plans for significant cuts to the application of the Endangered Species Act. Not only does the public strongly support the law, but so do lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum, so changes have been slow or altogether impossible. Until now. The President has proposed modifications to the bill that would open previously preserved lands to mining, oil and coal drilling, and urbanization. Additionally, if companies believe that they will lose revenue because due to the restriction of using protected habitat, endangered species may be removed to allow businesses to move in. 

2- Rates of deforestation will increase as businesses move into protected areas.
                        
The list of catastrophic changes goes on, and you can read more about them here: https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/08/whats-changing-about-endangered-species-act-enforcement-and-what-it-means/


            
3- Polar bears are the verge of becoming extinct if these policy changes are implemented.

Hopefully, these changes can be delayed from taking off. To help, write letters supporting the Endangered Species Act to your local politicians! Don’t support businesses who disregard wildlife by selling wildlife products or destroying their habitat! What every individual does to fight these bill changes does matter! 

Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Each one of us can make a huge impact. And, as always, be aware of your personal impact on the environment around you and globally. Fight to keep the Endangered Species Act strong to conserve all the listed species and to support increased biodiversity on our Mother Earth.


Photos:

Friday, August 16, 2019

Terrapin Traverser

The Terrapin Traverser 


by Brendan McCarthy

            This summer, I worked on repairing a hand-made wooden prawn boat as my main project for NECWA. I am, in no way, shape, or form, an experienced carpenter. As a result, I was very much outside of my comfort zone throughout the entire endeavor. I consulted many boat repair shops and various other people in the field about how to properly fix up a boat that was not capable of floating.
The Terrapin Traverser right side up and freshly scrubbed.
            After many consultations, I began to gather the various materials required of me, including a sander, sandpaper, epoxy, resin, boat paint, etc. I was excited to take on a new challenge, something very outside my comfort zone. I was presented with a pristine opportunity to dive into a field of work that I had no previous knowledge of. This allowed me to grow as an intellectual and as a competent worker.
Brendan (red shirt) and Jacob (green shirt) sanding the bottom of the boat. 
The first step was to sand down the entire bottom of the boat. Next we had to caulk all the gaps between the wood. After the caulk dried, we had to sand the bottom of the boat once more. Then we applied fiberglass to the areas we had caulk and to areas that were cracked or weakened after we had applied one coat of epoxy. Then four more coats of epoxy and finally painted our finished product. 
The painted bottom of the boat. 
            The project allowed me to become better rounded, and eventually when the boat was put in the water, it did indeed float. Many thanks to AJ’S Boat Repair Shop for allowing us to house our boat by their ramp! With the guidance of various other people in the organization, YouTube videos, and a passionate team of people helping me with the work, we got it done.

Brendan with the Terrapin Traverser at AJ's Boat Co.
Catching terrapins while balancing on a boat definitely presents a skillset for us to further develop, but as time progresses, so will out ability to catch these animals to further our research and conservation efforts. Now instead of just flying for team terrapin, we can float too.

Ready to make our mark out on the water. Go NECWA!
Videos that provided me with ideas of how to work on the boat and the best way to approach it:
Sanding wooden small boat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsKh7qSCX7Y
Applying an epoxy coating to a wooden boat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwsG-BA2bU0
Wooden Boat Revival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZIM2ZJBEgs