NECWA in action is what it is all about! We understand the importance of educational outreach to interested young professionals like the Cadets at Mass Maritime Academy. Last week, Krill Carson and Helen Granger presented NECWA's work with marine wildlife strandings to a group of interested cadets.
Saturday, November 13, 2021
Natural History Museum hosts presentation on protection of local wildlife
To see the article online, click Sippican Week
The Marion Natural History Museum welcomed the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance last week to learn about what can be done to rescue Diamondback terrapins and Ocean sunfish in the area.
Terrapins live in the brackish coastal waters off our coast and nest along our sandy beaches.
Ocean sunfish swim in the open waters along our coast and due to their distinctive dorsal fins — which wave above the water surface — are occasionally mistaken for sharks when viewed from a distance.
The New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance showed attendees how they are working to protect terrapins as well as helping sunfish who find themselves stranded in water too shallow for them to escape and get back out to the open ocean.
The museum thanked Krill Carson and the volunteers at the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance for all their work protecting these important species.
Thursday, April 22, 2021
Happy Earth Day from all of us at NECWA. Each day we have the opportunity to do something positive for Mother Earth. Some actions are small like using reusable bags at the grocery store and some are big, like purchasing an electric vehicle. No matter how significant the action, each one makes a difference, especially when we combine actions and work together. Lets' work hard to make every day Earth Day. Our survival depends on a healthy and diverse planet as does the survival of all life on Earth.
We are connected, we are One!
Saturday, April 17, 2021
Working with our interns and volunteers on scientific posters and presentations is what NECWA is about. This provides the experience and opportunities that these young professionals need as they grow in the field of marine science.
Please donate to NECWA to help us continue this important mission. NECWA works with over 60 high school and college interns each year as we train the scientists, journalist, educators, etc. of the future.
Monday, April 12, 2021
Where are our NECWA interns now?
Jessica Bethoney interned and volunteered at NECWA from 2014 to 2015. She was a NECWA whale research intern on the whale watch boats in Plymouth, MA where she was responsible for collecting, identifying and organizing Humpback whale research. In the winter, Jessica volunteered to look for cold-stunned sea turtles along Cape Cod along while also assisting with necropsies of sea turtle and ocean sunfish.
Thursday, January 28, 2021
Hello! My name is Austyn Morin. I am currently a senior at Stonehill College, majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Spanish and German. I have always been interested in the outdoors, spending lots of my free time hiking and fishing in Vermont. This has allowed me to gain a deep appreciation for the local wildlife. Those experiences have inspired me to pursue a career in wildlife biology and conservation.
|Austyn (on left) and David (right) |
with rescued live sea turtle.
So, naturally, I wanted to do something that would allow me to work with the wildlife of Massachusetts. I first heard of NECWA through Stonehill College and other students that had interned here. The first activities I participated in had to do with NECWA’s Ocean Sunfish Project, which involved responding to stranded Ocean Sunfish reports and returning them to the water if they were still alive. On one chilly November morning in East Sandwich, I had the opportunity to help return an Ocean Sunfish to the water. On other occasions, I have walked beaches looking for stranded Ocean Sunfish, tagging, taking data, and performing necropsies on the carcasses.
|Austyn assisting a live Ocean Sunfish|
|Austyn taking data on a Torpedo Ray|
More recently, I have participated in NECWA’s new research project for the Western Atlantic Torpedo. This project is focused on the only electric ray that is native to our New England waters. I was involved with on-site necropsies as well as data analysis back in the lab. Using ArcGIS Pro, I was able to create maps that show the location of the 63 torpedo ray carcasses NECWA was able to document this stranding season. The most interesting map is the one that shows the mass stranding of torpedo rays that occurred in late December on Long Point Beach in Provincetown. In this location, NECWA was able to document 41 torpedo ray carcasses that stranded along this 1.3 mile stretch of beach that borders Provincetown Harbor.
|Austyn documenting a Torpedo Ray|
In the future, I hope to pursue a career in wildlife biology and conservation while implementing my passion for GIS. To learn more about Stonehill's Environmental program, click here.
By Austyn Morin, Senior at Stonehill College
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
|Coleman with dead Common Dolphin at Linnell Landin, Brewster, MA.|
Hello! My name is Coleman Earner and I am in my Junior year at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA). I am currently studying Marine Science, Safety, and Environmental Protection (MSSEP) with a minor in Marine Biology. From a young age, I was fascinated by the ocean ecosystem and all of its moving parts. Since then, I’ve known for certain that I wanted to pursue the field of Marine Biology. During my time at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, I became especially interested in the phenomenon of stranded marine life. Participating in marine wildlife rescues and field research are activities that I’ve wanted to become involved in for a long time. I first heard about NECWA through one of Mass Maritime’s Career fairs as well as recommendations from various fellow students, which drove me to become more involved with their program through a MMA Winter Co-op Program.
My first day of fieldwork at NECWA consisted of walking Great Island in Wellfleet, MA in search of a stranded Ocean Sunfish carcass that was reported to NECWA the day before. The primary goal of this expedition was to report and record any washed-up marine life as well as learn the basics of proper searching and data collection. Along with another intern from MMA, Jack Gerrior, we successfully located the fresh Ocean Sunfish carcass and began collecting the requisite photographs and data. This experience was extremely invigorating and piqued my interest in further field research. I was fortunate enough to be able to work-up a fresh Ocean Sunfish carcass, as this instance would be the last new Ocean Sunfish stranding of the 2020/2021 stranding season.
|Live Loggerhead Sea Turtle rescued by Coleman Earner|
and Jack Gerrior at Beach Point, Truro, MA.
Along with various necropsies of Torpedo Rays and Ocean Sunfish, I was lucky to be involved with a number of rescues such as various seabirds and the rescue of a live Loggerhead Sea Turtle. As I was walking from Top Mast Resort south to Cold Storage Beach, I saw this turtle in the surf being pulled back out to sea. I had to wade into the surf to rescue this cold-stunned turtle and contacted Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellfleet for a pick-up. Being part of rescue efforts directly was an incredible experience and I am very thankful that I was able to make a difference.
During my time with NECWA, I also appreciated the direct and in-depth instruction provided by my supervisor, Krill Carson regarding the "how-tos" with beach rescues and necropsies. I picked-up a variety of techniques quickly such as how best to survey beaches for stranded animals and proper techniques used for data collection and measurements. My internship experience at NECWA has given me insights into the various elements of marine biology and fieldwork, including necropsies, photo-ID and video documentation. I also learned how to thoroughly document strandings through GPS positions, body measurements and weights. Back in the lab, I participated in tracking weather conditions and being involved in data input and analysis. Rescuing marine animals in need and analyzing stranded marine life data has piqued my interest in marine biology fieldwork even further.
My hopes for the future would be to find a career in the field of Marine Ecology, Seabird Protection, or general Coastal Conservation efforts. If you would like to learn more about Mass Maritime’s MSSEP Program, click HERE
Article by Coleman Earner, Junior at Mass Maritime Academy
Saturday, January 23, 2021
|Stranded dead Gray Triggerfish on Great Island, Wellfleet|
on 11/21/2020 by Holly Kuhn
The Gray Triggerfish (Balistes capriscus), also known as a Leatherjacket or Taly, belongs to the Balistidae or the triggerfish family, containing about 40 species altogether. Their most identifiable feature is their front spiny dorsal fin, which gives the Gray Triggerfish its name because they use their front dorsal fin as a defense mechanism against predators. When threatened, the Gray Triggerfish will move into a rocky crevice and erect their front dorsal fin, locking them into place. The Gray Triggerfish has been known to become stranded on Cape Cod's beaches, so it is important to note other important physical features. Mainly since the physical characteristics of the Gray Triggerfish can change depending on age and sex. That way, if one is identified, you can take photos of it and take note of its location. In general they have large plate-like scales at the front of their body, but they become smoother and smaller towards the back of the fish. Triggerfish are compressed laterally, so they look somewhat like an oblong plate. The eyes of the Triggerfish are also set farther away from their mouth. They have two separate dorsal fins a spiny one in the front for defense and another one behind it. There is also an anal fin which is on the opposite side of the second dorsal fin. They also have a caudal or tail fin that can have elongated lobes in larger adults.
|Dead stranded Gray Triggerfish on Cold Storage Beach, Truro, MA. |
Photo by Eric Joransen
Adults tend to be olive-gray and can have blue spots and lines on their upper body and dorsal fins and white spots near their lower body and fins. In comparison, juveniles are more yellowish and have small violet dots. Gray Triggerfish call the waters of the East Atlantic from Nova Scotia all the way down to Argentina home. Triggerfish prefer areas with hard bottoms or reefs, and they live in bays or lagoons in depths up to 55 meters. Gray Triggerfish can weigh as much as 13 pounds. They can reach upto 28 inches in length and normally live around 11-15 years.
Spawning season for Gray triggerfish occurs between the months of April to August, and during this time, Triggerfish exhibit an exciting ability in their toolset. They change colors. Males become a more charcoal grey color while females become a more contrasting black and white. It is essential to keep in mind if you find a fish on the beach that looks like a Gray Triggerfish, but the colors seem off. After the fish have mated, it typically takes about 44-55 hours for the eggs to hatch. Once they hatch, unlike their adult counterparts who prefer to hang out near the water's bottom, juveniles live at a more shallow depth. These young Triggerfish are very closely connected with Sargassum, which is a type of Algae. In fact, Sargassum is so important to young Gray Triggerfish that juveniles' survival rates are directly correlated to the abundance of the Sargassum. So, future efforts to maintain the populations could be connected to monitoring the quantity of Sargassum.
|Gray Triggerfish in open water|
Photo posted by SpaceCoastDaily.com
|Live Sand Dollar, Long Point Beach, MA|
Photo by Katarina Bingham-Maas
Due to their abundance and comprehensive range, they are a favorite for anglers both commercially and for recreation. There are two main stocks in the Atlantic: in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic. However, due to their popularity in 2018, the stock in the Gulf of Mexico was overfished. Today it is no longer currently considered to be overfished, and the population is rebuilding to target levels. Despite their popularity, there is no need for alarm because the fishing gear used for Gray Triggerfish has been shown to have a little environmental impact. As well the World Conservation Union does not consider the Gray Triggerfish to be threatened or endangered. There are regulations in place by the US government to make sure Gray Triggerfish populations remain sustainable, and because of this, Gray Triggerfish are an excellent choice for seafood. As an alternative for those who are looking for a more sustainable meat source. Or if you're looking for something new to try. Gray Triggerfish are also notorious among anglers for being bait stealers, especially those fishing for Red Snapper and Grouper.
Gray Triggerfish strandings are a visible event that occurs on Cape Cod. So, by starting the data collection process on where they are stranding. We can begin to better understand the role these peculiar fish play in our waters. For more information about Gray Triggerfish check out these links and Articles below.
This blog post by Austyn Morin, Senior at Stonehill College
Links to learn more about the Gray Triggerfish: