Sunrise over the Santa Barbara channel as we headed out in search of Chilipepper Rockfish. The bright red colors were beautiful and eerie all at the same time as Ventura and Santa Barbara counties are fighting the Thomas fire, one of the largest fires in California history. Smoke and ash were choking the air quality and we took precautions, along with most other residents, by wearing face masks. The ground around the harbor was covered in a thin layer of ash that looked almost like a dusting of snow in the 75 degree weather. Our usual captain of the Stardust could not join us today. His home in Carpenteria is under voluntary evacuation. Some of the crew who helped us fish were also under evacuations. Hoping for the winds to shift and firefighters to get a hold on this blaze!
Even under stressful conditions, the crew found us our Chilipeppers! We successfully collected over 30 pregnant females for reproductive studies, along with a smattering of other interesting species such as Bocaccio, Half-banded, Squarespot, Vermilion, Greenstriped, Rosy and Greenspotted. I was joined by UCSC/ NOAA colleagues Ily Iglesia and Sue Sogard. We thank the crew of the Stardust for helping us collect samples!
Fire and evacuation zones in Santa Barbara on December 11, 2017
Lastly, the PSA for the day: We spotted multiple balloons floating on the water offshore. These balloons are released at parties and events and end up as litter in the oceans. Unfortunately, balloons can be mistaken as food by marine animals like sea turtles that mistake them as jellyfish and often die from eating them. Save a turtle by holding on tight to all balloons and never releasing them into the air. Good news, the crew spotted the balloons, picked them up and put them in the trash.