NOAA research vessel
monitors fish larvae

Scientists aboard the research vessel Gordon Gunter, which docked in George Town last Saturday, are assisting the Department of Environment by counting grouper larvae.

The scientists added this request to their work list as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel criss-crosses the Caribbean.

“With NOAA’s help we can learn a lot about the prevalence and path of grouper larvae, and the information can strengthen our conservation efforts,” said DoE Deputy Director Tim Austin. “We are very thankful for this concession. Nassau grouper spawning events generally occur this time of year.”

Tracking and counting fish larvae in the water surrounding the Cayman Islands may enable marine scientists to offer some insight into local groupers’ life cycles.

Blue fin tuna research

The scientists’ work primarily involves seeking blue fin tuna larvae in an effort to better understand this endangered species.

NOAA researchers use a multiple opening and closing net with an environmental sensing system to gather samples at different ocean sites and depths.

These samples are then scrutinised in an on board laboratory as scientists look for fish larvae.

The high-tech sampling system “is towed behind the ship with nets opening and shutting independently to sample discrete patches of water,” said NOAA Research Associate Estrella Malca. “An array of sensors mounted on the instrument frame relays water conditions up to the ship in real time. The data allows researchers to match what they find in their samples to the physical properties of the seawater.”

The Gordon Gunter conducts scientific surveys to determine the health and abundance of fishery resources and marine mammals primarily in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

In addition to meeting DoE personnel, the Gunter crew also hosted marine science students from Cayman Prep and High School this week.

For more information on the ship and its crew’s activities, visit