Research in natural systems can present different challenges. Inability to control natural factors makes the work of scientists quite difficult. The past field work season was particularly challenging as we struggled to find American Elephant Fish (AEF) in the pristine site, which concerning our study, serve as the “control” or “reference” study site. My project aims to assess physiological alterations in the reproductive system of AEF due to anthropic pollution, and having reference values from a non- or less-impacted area is essential. The fishing technique, rod and reel from the shoreline, we were applying was not working in the pristine site; we caught no fish no matter how patient we were. Since we hadn´t caught any fish near the shore, we decided to change the fishing technique and go out on a boat to cover larger areas. We started fishing at sunrise using a bottom long-line fishing gear of 100 meters long in order to maximize the fishing effort and the chances of catching individuals. A long-line consists of a commercial fishing angling technique that uses a long main line with baited hooks attached at intervals (2,5 meters in our case) via short branch lines.
In this scenario, we counted with the help of Ulises, an artisanal fisherman who works in the San Jose Gulf. He showed great interest in the project and helped us to achieve the goal. Once again, we witnessed how important is to engage and collaborate with anglers in order to achieve results. After several tides, we found AEF and we were able to process them. In the video, we show some footage of those field work trips. Individuals caught were processed for around 3 to 5 minutes, and once blood extraction was completed and weight and length were measured, fish were returned back to the water.
Now that we have samples from both sites (polluted and control,) our work will focus on laboratory analyses and result discussion. I am sure, I will be missing field work and spending time at sea connected to nature.