The pattern is as follows: a drag of the net every two hours on predetermined fishing sites, 24 hours a day unless otherwise informed by the captain. The night shift is the most active, but also the most difficult as far as quality sleep goes. There’s no longer a schedule, and the longer it goes on, the more we overlap with the shift of our colleague – and the temporal dimension goes out the window! That colleague is named Braedan McCluskey, a master’s student from the University of Oregon who’s come to help out the mission, a big strapping fellow of partly Scandinavian descent.
Fishing with traps
There are also preparations for fishing with traps, which is a lot less damaging for the seabed, but which will let us catch only Notothenia coriiceps (black rockcod). I jump armed with a shovel into the big isothermic container holding the herring that will be used for bait while other people concern themselves with filling the bait pockets. After a careful examination of the seabed profile in order to maximize the harvest, four lines of four traps will be deployed on the bottom. Trawling, meanwhile, allows us to harvest the majority of the icefish.
And the goal of this fishing?
The goal, if I may remind you, is to assemble an optimal number of fish in breeding condition and to haul them in not just alive but likely to breed in captivity, and do this despite the mistreatment associated with trawl fishing. So when we’re not fishing, we’re busy making the transport conditions as favorable as possible for our valuable passengers. I take note of a number of improvements that could help but that I choose not to share for the moment, not until I get to Palmer, because they’re impossible to implement right now. Shall I give you a little taste? Preservation of the integrity of the skin first, then “bubble bath for fish” style synthetic mucus, and follow up with topical treatments if the problem persists or gets worse. The reason is obvious to me: the blackfin icefish has skin of rarely encountered and alarming fragility! With no scales, very vascular and ultra thin, that skin is highly susceptible to abrasion and unlikely to recover if damaged. I finally feel ready to reveal to you why these fish are so distinctive and are the subject of work on climate change, bone formation and oxidative stress (aging). On this last point, my colleague Pierre Blier is going to be happy.