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Center for Coastal Studies Researcher Collects Unwanted Parts of Fish for ‘Fish Gut’ Round-Up

July 06, 2015

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PORT ARANSAS, Texas – Thursday, July 2 was a beautiful day in Port Aransas, and also a good day for fishing. On that day, Dr. James Simons, Associate Research Scientist for the Center for Coastal Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, patiently waited as amateur anglers on Gulf Eagle charter boat docked at Captain Kelly’s Deep Sea Headquarters, and their catch didn’t disappoint.  But Dr. Simons’ wasn’t looking for the biggest and best filet; he was more interested in what the fishermen didn’t want – the fish guts, and a small part of muscle tissue.

“Of course the stomach and intestine – the fish guts – will tell us what the fishes last ate, while in the tissue samples we are looking for levels of nitrogen and carbon isotopes,” said Simons. “The nitrogen isotope indicates the fish’s position in the food web, and the carbon isotope acts as an indicator of food source.”

“I think it’s very interesting that my dinner is going to become a part of a science experiment,” stated Roberto Ramos, an angler on the Gulf Eagle. “If it helps identify issues with future catches or species then I think it’s a wonderful idea.”

On this day, Simons was able to collect carcasses from 10 red snapper and three king mackerel. He plans to collect fish samples through October 2015, and still needs help from the public to do so.

“The study requires a very specific list of mostly offshore fish species, including snappers, groupers, large pelagics, and others,” said Simons. “I’m hoping for at least 30 specimens from 40 different species.”

The data collected will be posted to the GoMexSi website, which is currently used to record, archive, and analyze species interaction data in the Gulf of Mexico. These data are then used to improve mathematical fisheries models – abstractions of the ecosystem – to advise fisheries managers using model predictions of the effects of perturbations such as overfishing, oil spills, and algal blooms.

The needed species list along with additional information on the research project can be found at http://gomexsi.tamucc.edu/texas-coastal-fish-gut-round-up/, or on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Gomexsi.

Simons and his research team are asking, that in addition to the digestive tract and a piece of tissue, for fisherman to provide: common (or species) name, fish length, weight (optional), location caught (GPS or approximation), and method used (i.e, rod and reel). The fish gut and tissue (or preferably the whole carcass) should be placed in a plastic bag and kept on ice or if possible, frozen.

The main area of the study extends from Port O’Connor to Port Mansfield, to about 100 miles offshore. Individuals contributing to this project will be recognized (with consent) on the GoMexSI webpage, and charter boat operators who are participating are being recognized as partners on the GoMexSI webpage.

If the public has any questions about the study, or would like to contribute to the study, they should contact Dr. James Simons at 361.825.3223 or james.simons@tamucc.edu; or Aaron Baxter at 361.825.3659 or aaron.baxter@tamucc.edu; or Tracy Weatherall at tracyweatherall@me.com.