BY M.L.Baron / Special to the Neighboorhood News
Fishing off the West Island causeway during the summer is a common sight. Even this late in the season a few fishermen can still be seen casting their lines hoping for just one more catch. But last week, there weren't typical fishermen with poles here, 3 men were at the beach in waders and a net. This activity is part of an on going marine science program from SMAST - School for Marine Science and Technology which is part of UMASS Dartmouth. The Seine is a type of dragnet - a small meshed net with floats on top and weighted on the bottom and is considered one of the oldest means of fishing. Seine fishing dates back to prehistoric times, with numerous mentions in the Old and New Testaments. Native Americans made their seines from tree root fibers or grass and stones as weights. They used cedar wood for floats.
Forrest Kennedy - an Aquaculture Technician with the SMAST lab located in New Bedford's south end near Fort Taber, brought along two students, Zachary Hahn, currently at Bristol Community College and Fairhaven High School Student Scott Turner who wants to be a Marine Engineer. They grabbed a large seine net bringing it about 50 yards offshore and dragged it back with a catch of sea creatures from the shallow 57 degree water and sandy bottom.
The purpose was to sort through , examine and study the various sea life that was mingled into the seaweed. The net yielded some shrimp, shiners, a small Japanese shore crab and a couple of tiny seahorses in one pass and then placed into a buckets of seawater. According to Kennedy, some selected species would be brought back to the marine lab and placed into an aquarium for further study. He said it was rare to see, but not uncommon to see seahorses and other juvenile fish migrate up from the warm Gulf Stream into the colder waters of the northeast "Unfortunately their days are numbered in surviving the colder ocean temperatures " he said. The tiny seahorses like the one in the photo are scientifically referred to as "hippocampus erectus" which in Greek the word "hippo" means horse and "kampos" means sea monster. These dwarf sea horses are usually found in the waters off the Bahamas.
Zachary Hahn has had a special interest in the marine sciences throughout his years at high school and now as an undergrad at SMAST. Zak's mother, Diane Hahn of Fairhaven proudly recalls her son's dedication to his studies and has spent a "thousand hours" as a volunteer at The Ocean Explorium and SMAST in the city. She considers him a role model for young people growing up with an Autism disorder. "I believe that it is important for people to realize that "different" does not mean lesser and that people of all abilities have much to contribute to our society" Mrs Hahn said. As the students dragged in another net full of seaweed and living sea creatures of all kinds, the late October sun sparkled over the water through partially overcast skies.
For more about SMAST: http://www.umassd.edu/smast/about/aboutsmast/
For Seahorses in action enter here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hzGUemj4Mo