Coast researchers work to ensure the health of Gulf marine life - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Coast researchers work to ensure the health of Gulf marine life

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Doug Walker – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It's quiet aboard the 95 foot long research vessel, Tommy Munro but not for long. To prepare for a long time in the open waters, a lot of equipment has got to get loaded onboard.

All the equipment is designed to track and record the spawning habits of the Blue Fin Tuna, one of the world's most endangered fish. It's an honor for research veteran Jim Franks.  

"It's extremely important for us to learn more about the entire lifecycle of this majestic fish that roams the world's oceans and has chosen our part of the world to come into the Gulf of Mexico to go and spawn, and this has been going on for eons and eons," Franks said. 

Preparing the vessel is no easy job, but onboard computers will help out. And there's plenty of room to move around. In fact, it's kind of like a floating home away from home. 

Researchers from the Gulf Coast Research Lab are no strangers to these 12 day missions into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico to conduct research on the big tunas, only this time around, it's much more important because of the millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf.

"We're very concerned about any impact of this oil spill on the adults as well, particularly the spawning stock. And of course, our work will give us an opportunity to sample in some areas that may be close to the spill itself." 

The efforts of these scientists may ensure the big Tunas continue to come to Gulf to have their young. The only other place in the world the Tuna spawn is in the Mediterranean Sea. And Dr. Bruce Comyns says it's best to start early.

"If you're trying to manage a species, you don't just manage the adults. You really have to look at all the life history stages of that fish. So it's not just managing the size of the fish you're actually catching; it's managing the juveniles and managing the larvae." 

After the ship returns to port, it will take several weeks of more study to tabulate and report back on the health of the species.

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