On a meager budget, biologists at Sandy Hook, N.J. have made some fascinating discoveries off a familiar shore
March 09, 1964

The sea—compelling, wild and mysterious—is our last frontier. Man is of the sea. The salt-washed blood in his veins and the lime in his bones bespeak his oceanic heritage. And the sea is ever beckoning him, promising rebirth, a freedom from the cares of terrestial life.

No one seeks this freedom more than the angler. Casting into white-tipped surf or dropping a line from a rolling party boat, the angler is at peace with himself. Each year the sea becomes more attractive to American fishermen. The statistics are overwhelmingly impressive. In 1946 an estimated three million Americans fished in the sea for sport. Today, there are more than seven million saltwater anglers. They catch upward of 1.5 billion pounds of food fish annually, as much as commercial fishermen take, and they spend $700 million a year on bait, equipment, accommodations and charter boats, to the enrichment of countless communities on the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts. In Florida alone, saltwater angling has an economic value equal to that of the citrus and cattle industries combined.

Superficially, all would seem serene. Millions of Americans are catching millions of fish and spending millions of dollars in the process. But beneath this surface serenity there are problems, critical problems, which endanger the sport. For one, no one knows very much about the sea. Biologists, for instance, do not know the complete life history of a single marine game fish. No one really has any idea at all as to what effect heavy angling will have on species of fish that have not been hitherto sought. Contrary to myth, the sea does not possess inexhaustible resources of fish. The Pacific sardine, which once constituted the largest of all American fisheries, producing more than half a million tons annually, has virtually vanished from the California coast as a result of overfishing. In Oregon, Washington and Alaska the Chinook salmon is being threatened by industrial construction in its spawning rivers. On the Atlantic coast the weakfish, which was the most popular game fish off Long Island until the '50s, is all but gone from that area, and the same is true of the yellowtail flounder, which used to abound off southern New England.

For the most part, marine biological research has gone largely unsupported. A stock joke among marine biologists has it that they have had to specialize in bays and inlets because they only have enough money to go in water up to the knees. Sporadically there is a whoop and a holler when a species begins to vanish and a crash program is suddenly started to study the disappearance. But inasmuch as the scientists sent out on the chase have no previous data or studies to go on, their efforts are often fruitless. Even so, they are then expected to make recommendations to guard against future calamity. Generally, marine fishery laws and regulations are a cruel hoax. The states have jurisdiction over fish in their waters, even though the fish may be only the briefest of visitors—and the protective laws vary considerably from state to state.

In addition to all this confusion, there are the problems brought about by burgeoning humanity. For along with the great increase in angling there has been a great increase in population along the coasts, particularly on the Atlantic seaboard, where a megalopolis, or super-city, is forming between Boston and Washington. Atlantic coastal waters, especially those skirting the larger cities, are menaced by swelling pollution.

In an attempt to establish some kind of control and to improve fishing, several conservation groups began agitating in the early '50s for Congress to start a national marine game-fish research program. Eventually, backing came from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, a part of the Department of the Interior, and in 1960 Congress finally agreed. Dr. Lionel A. Walford, formerly chief of the Branch of Fishery Biology in the Fish & Wildlife Service, was appointed director and took over an old three-story brick Army hospital at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook, N.J. as a laboratory.

By any standard, Walford, who is in his mid-50s, is a remarkable man. A renowned biologist, he has all the precision of a scientist and all the passion of a poet. A brooding six-footer with deep brown eyes, he toyed as a youngster in San Francisco with the idea of becoming an actor, and the most raging arguments of his youth were with his father on how Hamlet should be played. One of his books, Living Resources of the Sea, published in 1958 under the sponsorship of the Conservation Foundation, is a classic of modern biology. It is perhaps the best exposition in print of the problems of the oceanic wilderness, and it is striking not so much for what the author discloses about life in the sea as for his revelation of how much is unknown.

When Congress authorized the laboratory, it stipulated that the annual budget was not to exceed $2.7 million a year, but the most that Sandy Hook has ever received has been a relatively meager $167,-000. Even so, Walford has managed to assemble a first-rate staff of eight young biologists and technicians (the average age is only 28), and by dint of skimping here and saving there the laboratory has been able to turn out some excellent work. The staff lacked a research boat the first year, but Walford subsequently was able to get his hands on an Air Force boat, which he christened Challenger, after the pioneering British research vessel of the 1870s, and converted into a rough-and-ready seagoing laboratory.

One of the first projects that Walford assigned was a survey of saltwater angling, to be conducted by John Clark, the assistant director. Clark started the survey early enough so that 1960 census takers could take a representative sample of the population, and by the time he had finished adding up the results and checking them with other federal and state agencies and private citizens interested in fishing he had amassed a number of pertinent and revealing statistics. Briefly, the survey disclosed that there were then 6.2 million saltwater anglers in the country and their ranks were increasing at the rate of 400,000 a year. (Walford figures that there will be 15 million anglers by 1980, and 30 million by the year 2000.) More than half the angling was done along the Atlantic coast, from Maine to the Florida Keys. The majority of anglers fished close to shore rather than at sea, and they took anything that bit. All told, they took 200 to 300 species of fish. The biggest bag, on the Atlantic coast anyway, was flounders, of which anglers had a total catch of 53 million pounds. Bluefish were second with 50.6 million pounds, jacks third with 41.2, red drum fourth with 38.6, striped bass fifth with 37.5, porgies (scup) sixth with 36.6, sharks seventh with 36.2, groupers eighth with 34.3, cod ninth with 30.9 and black drum 10th with 30. Significantly, anglers caught far more of some species than did commercial fishermen. They caught, for example, all the jacks, 99.5% of the red drum, 94.9% of the bluefish and 81.3% of the striped bass.

Last year Walford began studying the distribution of 14 species offish on the continental shelf ranging from Maine to Texas. He expects to complete his study by June of 1965, and when it is finished he will have surveyed the 5,000-mile-long coast county by county. The Pacific coast is also being studied at the marine game-fish laboratory in Tiburon, Calif. The Tiburon lab, which has a smaller staff than that at Sandy Hook, was set up in 1962 by Walford and is now under the direction of Gerald Talbot.

The Atlantic continental shelf extends seaward for 40 miles, and it comprises one of the most productive fishing grounds in the world. But, as Walford discovered when he plotted records of commercial catches on a graph, productivity was consistently high in some areas and low in others. Fishing was most productive in the area between Cape Cod and southern New Jersey, picked up again off Virginia and northern North Carolina, then slumped until Florida. Part of Walford's work is attempting to learn the specific differences between productive and nonproductive waters in terms of the environment. Generally speaking, fish gather where currents alter or where the continental-shelf floor is irregular. "To use the jargon of biologists," Walford says, "fish tend to congregate around discontinuities." Off the Jersey coast, for example, where marine life is prolific, the bottom is full of ridges and hills and deep canyons. By contrast, the floor off Georgia and South Carolina, where catches are low, is relatively smooth and shallow.

A key to the productivity of the Atlantic shelf, Walford believes, is the richness of the estuarine zone, the name given to the expanse of water between the upper reaches of the tide and the open sea. This innermost edge of the sea has long fascinated Walford, who eventually plans to do a book about it. Indeed, until Living Resources of the Sea appeared, the subject had scarcely been touched on, and then unsatisfactorily.

According to Walford, the Atlantic estuarine zone is especially rich because of a unique combination of favorable factors, "it is capacious, extending in a broad band almost uninterrupted for over 2,000 miles," he noted in a paper he read to the Association of American Geographers last September. "The tidal marshes in New Jersey alone, for example, comprise some 185,000 acres. Climatically it is particularly well located so that it can include boreal, transitional and tropical fauna. Migratory temperate forms that are more or less estuarine-dependent can range far along the coast, shifting northward, southward, inshore, off-shore, according to changes in temperature and food supply. Thus, for example, menhaden, bluefish, black drum, red drum, spot, croaker, mullet and blue crab occur from the Gulf of Maine to Texas.

"The extraordinary fertility of the coastal salt marshes is probably the key to the biological value of the estuary. The Sapelo marshes of Georgia, for example, produce nearly seven times as much organic matter per unit area as the water of the continental shelf, 20 times as much as that of the deep sea, six times as much as average wheat-producing farmland. It is no wonder that the creeks meandering through the marshes are superlatively rich pasture for young herbivorous fishes. Not only are they rich but safe, as safe as can be in a natural aquatic habitat; for the shallows generally bar the entry of larger carnivores that frequent the deeper waters of the estuary and the shelf beyond.

"The fertility of the estuarine zone is reflected in its large population of wildlife—songbirds, shore birds, waterfowl and mammals. During the period 1950-1960, for example, the number of ducks, geese, coots and swans wintering in the salt marshes from New York to North Carolina averaged 2.1 million birds a year. Here again, it is the long unbroken distances covered by the Atlantic estuarine zone that give it unique value. True, concentrations of aquatic bird life occur in the salt marshes of other coasts, but these are generally localized about the mouths of rivers.

"Thus it would seem that we ought to appreciate the Atlantic tidewater marshland as one of our country's natural treasures, comparable in the distinction of its biological features, say, to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. But it has not been appreciated. As far back as the 18th century, farmers began 'reclaiming' the marsh for agriculture. If we may judge by what has happened, people have generally regarded it as wasteland to be developed as real estate for housing projects, industrial centers, amusement parks and other profitable purposes. If no profit is to be made of the marshes, they make convenient dumping grounds for the refuse of cities. At the very least they must be drained to eliminate their populations of mosquitoes.

"The effects of all these intrusions on estuarine life are subtle and hard to measure. They accumulate insidiously, and any changes that occur go unnoticed. Today the area known as the Hackensack Meadows is an eyesore haunting the edges of megalopolis. Only a few people are left alive who can remember when it was lush and beautiful. During the five-year period ending with 1959, the marshes of New Jersey were reduced by 4.8%, those of New York by 11%."

John Clark, the energetic assistant director at Sandy Hook, is engaged in a number of projects. Once a month he buzzes aloft in a Coast Guard plane for a swing over the ocean, covering a 1,100-mile area to read surface temperatures with an infra-red device. Upon landing he correlates his temperature findings with reports of fish migrations. This may seem elementary, but the fact is no one has ever done it before.

Clark is equally at home under the water. An accomplished skin diver, he is founder and president of the American Littoral Society, a sort of underwater Audubon group with compressed air tanks, and as such he has been able to summon all sorts of flippered volunteers to the cause of survey. When the Navy proposed to let gypsy salvagers raise the cruiser San Diego, torpedoed off Fire Island by a German submarine in 1917, Clark was among the leaders of an opposition group that convinced the Navy to cancel the contract. Nowadays he and the rest of the members keep track of the hundreds of wrecks that attract fish on the Atlantic coast. An order from Clark is all the members need to spring to battle stations. When Dr. Jan Prager, the microbiologist at Sandy Hook, needed samples of marine mud from the continental shelf, Clark had but to give the word and suddenly 100 members were happily groveling in the depths.

In terms of marine life, Prager is doing the most fundamental of all research at Sandy Hook. He is studying phytoplankton, the minute plants of the sea, on which all forms of animal life eventually depend for sustenance. This is an extraordinary field in which to work. The laboratory techniques are very demanding, requiring, for instance, that glassware be washed in 200° water, then rinsed several times in distilled water and finally baked at 800° for half an hour.

The cost of equipment is high, and Prager has been forced either to do without or, with the help of his assistant, John Mahoney, to devise makeshift equipment of his own. These improvisations would do justice to Dr. Seuss and are labeled as having been manufactured by the Scheckelpincher Company. "There are perhaps a dozen people in the world doing the work I'm doing," Prager says, with a smile. "All of them are in the West. This is one field in which we're ahead of the Russians."

Prager's main interest is the biochemistry of seawater. "Seawater is different up and down the coast," he says. "Actually, when you use seawater in the singular it's a sin. The seawater in Chesapeake Bay is different from that in Raritan Bay, and that's different from Cape Cod. Even offshore there are areas that are biochemically different. And it is these biochemical differences which account for the differing abundance and distribution of phytoplankton, the so-called grass of the sea. Recently in Long Island Sound at Larchmont I picked up an interesting phytoplankton bloom in a yacht harbor. The little inlet was full of them, yet the water in the next inlet, 50 yards away, was as clear as crystal."

In addition to biochemical differences, seasonal changes cause variations in plankton on the continental shelf. "Off the New Jersey coast," Prager says, "diatoms, a group of algae, one-celled plants, start to bloom, proliferate to the point where the water is turbid, in January. Spring turns up earlier in the ocean than it does on land. While we're snowed in, it's spring out there. Why? No one knows the whole story. Anyway, the diatoms are followed by flagellates, one-celled plants that can swim. During the late spring and summer these float in abundance in the water, and animal plankton, zooplankton, predominantly composed of minute crustaceans along with invertebrate larvae and small fish larvae, graze on them." Fish such as menhaden and herring eat the zooplankton, and, in turn, larger predators, such as bluefish and striped bass, eat the menhaden and herring. "In the late fall," Prager says, "the production of phytoplankton largely stops and does not resume again until January.

"To some extent, these plants are regulated by temperature and salinity. They start here at a different time than they do, say, at Georges Bank off Cape Cod. But these plants do require certain organic materials such as thiamine, B12, folic acid and amino acids. We don't know everything about the nutritional requirements of phytoplankton, but we do know that different seawaters have different potentials for growing them. And what we're trying to pin down is the biochemistry behind these potentials to grow plants. Converse to this, once we have learned the nutritional requirements of a pure culture of a single species of phytoplankton, we can use this as a marine white mouse, to measure the amount of a given nutrient that it requires in seawater. Ultimately we hope we will be able to predict toxic red tides and enhance the productivity of nonproductive water by seeding it with microorganisms which will act to enrich the water for other crops. Our own Atlantic coast is the richest phytoplankton area in the world, and the richest single point is probably Georges Bank. It's extremely rich, so rich it's murky. That's why skin divers hate it—they can't see their hands in front of their faces. But the fact is we don't know now the subtle things that make the difference between a rich body of water and a poor one. Maybe all the richness comes from a sheep pasture up in the watershed, and sheep manure is responsible for all of it. Who knows? But we'll find out, or our grandchildren will."

Prager's next-door neighbor at the laboratory, Dr. Ronald Eisler, has been working on pollutants. In a recent experiment, he checked on the toxicity of soaps and detergents to marine life. Contrary to the advertising slogan, Duz doesn't do everything, at least when it comes to killing fish. Duz and other soaps, Eisler learned, "are relatively harmless to fish for the simple reason that soaps can be broken down by bacteria." On the other hand, synthetic detergents are most harmful. "One pound of detergent in 23,-000 gallons of seawater will wipe out half the fish life in four days," says Eisler, "and it will stay toxic for three months." Detergents have a molecular base that cannot be broken down by bacteria.

In an attempt to overcome the pollutants of the present as well as those of the future, Eisler is trying to raise a hardy, disease-resistant race of fluke. While doing graduate work at the University of Washington, Eisler studied under Dr. Lauren Donaldson, who has used selective breeding to raise 3-year-old rainbows that weigh 14 pounds. Eisler is trying to duplicate this feat with fluke. To stimulate growth and accelerate sexual development, he has been giving his fluke injections of thyroid hormones and a sex hormone known as HCG. "Eventually," he says, "we hope to wind up with a race of superfish. As of now, we expect the program to be successful within 30 to 50 years, and I expect to be around then. Given adequate equipment, I think that I could complete it in 20 years. With the estuaries going from pollution and landfill, we have to be prepared." One of the flounders that Eisler originally caught for aquarium experiment was an albino, and he wrote a paper for a scientific journal describing the rarity. The name of the white flounder was Moby Irving.

One of the major programs at Sandy Hook is a study of the life cycle of the bluefish. Eisler and a number of the other biologists are working on various phases of this. "The reason we're studying the bluefish and not some other game-fish," says John Clark, the assistant director, who is in charge of fish tagging, "is that it's the model fish. Everything we learn about the bluefish will be of help. The bluefish is a popular game fish, economically important, caught in abundance, has coastal and worldwide distribution and lives its life in densely fished areas. We're also very much interested in the interaction of the environment and fish, and the bluefish responds beautifully to temperatures. A lot of fish react in subtle ways, and because the ways are subtle and the interaction so complex we don't know what's going on. But bluefish respond beautifully to changes in the environment."

Eisler is trying to distinguish differences between populations of bluefish by analyses of blood. The blood chemistry of marine fishes is a virgin field, but after a year's research Eisler has strong evidence that New Jersey blues can be distinguished from North Carolina blues on the basis of four different blood components. Since the Sandy Hook lab simply lacks the funds to maintain stations elsewhere along the coast, Eisler had to drive down to North Carolina last summer to collect bluefish. He had only two days to do the job, and he had to hire a $50-a-day charter boat to catch the blues himself with hook and line. He needed at least 20 fresh from the sea, but on the first day out the blues were not biting, and he caught only seven. On the second and last day, however, they struck with ferocity, and Eisler and a friend caught 60 in 40 minutes. To help Clark with the tagging program, Eisler tagged the blues he did not need, packed the rest in an ice chest in the back of his car and roared back to Sandy Hook, where he and his assistant, Dave Deuel, ran blood analyses. But what tickles Eisler most about the trip is that one of the 27 blues he tagged was caught by an angler who returned the tag to Clark.

Herbert Anderson, a summertime biologist at Sandy Hook who is studying for his doctorate at the University of Miami, is noting the species composition of parasites occurring in blues as a way of telling differences between populations, and Walford himself is working on anatomical variations. "We do find differences," he says. "They are exasperatingly slight, but they are consistent." As of now, the thinking is that there are two main populations of bluefish, one dubbed Population A, the other B. Population A winters off southern Florida in January and February. Population B apparently winters farther south but shows up off Palm Beach in April. Population A moves north to Cape Hatteras in May, peaks in August off Long Island and New Jersey and retreats to Hatteras in October before returning to Florida. Population B simply moves up to North Carolina in July and stays there until fall. "They may be in the process of becoming two different species," Walford says. "We may be seeing evolution actually under way, in a very slow process, of course."

Although temperatures are seemingly responsible for the two blue populations, Walford doubts that temperatures trigger their separate migrations. "It is something within themselves, a biological clock perhaps, that impels them to move," he says. "We think that the most likely external factor that could influence them would be the sun. That is the theory anyway."

To test this theory, Walford has hired a fish behaviorist, Bori Ola, to study blues and other fish in a tank that will be built in the basement this year. Blues are extraordinarily difficult to raise in captivity—Eisler failed in his aquarium—and plans call for the tank to be 35 feet long, 15 feet wide and nine feet deep. Large windows will enable Ola to observe the blues at fish-eye level. Artificial light will take the place of the sun. Among other things, Ola will study the blues' ability to see, smell and hear. It is believed that blues feed by sight, but the sense of smell in some fishes is extremely acute.

Bluefish have been observed underwater at sea by Robert Wicklund, a lab assistant whose father is the skipper of the Challenger. Wicklund is Sandy Hook's resident scuba diver. To attract blues on his 60-foot dives, Wicklund takes along a coffee can of ground-up menhaden. As far as Wicklund has been able to discover, blues seem to prefer turbid water. "One time," he recalls, "we went down to 40 feet and drifted through clear water. There was nothing, but as soon as we hit murky water there were bluefish." During a night dive Wicklund saw a school of 40 to 50 small blues apparently sleeping. The fish were dormant and in a vertical position with head up and tail down. When startled, they righted themselves and swam off hurriedly. Wicklund also noticed that when bluefish fed on chum, they invariably circled in a clockwise manner before coming in to strike. "They don't seem to feed unless they're in this clockwise circle," he says.

Chumming attracted other fish. "We attracted quite a few fluke and sea bass," Wicklund says. "The fluke, large ones, came in by the droves, and they weren't frightened by our presence. This is unusual. Ordinarily they're so wary of divers that they won't let them get close. We also attracted cunner, a trash fish. They were very aggressive and fed out of the hand. The sea bass stayed outside the other fish; then when the crowd broke up slightly they came in. But when the fluke came in, everything left. Everything gave them a wide berth."

Wicklund's descents are made with another diver in a cage because of the danger of shark attack. Once he and a companion, a college student who was working at Sandy Hook for the summer, were diving at night when the lights on the cage began to explode. "Using lights underwater was a new experience for us," Wicklund recalls, "and we decided to clear out fast. We thought we might be electrocuted. But the diver with me came right back in again and slammed his end shut. It seems that just as he started to leave, a hammerhead came out of nowhere and brushed against him. Before that happened again, he decided that he'd take his chances inside again. And so did I."

In the last couple of years, sharks, especially makos, have become a sought-after game fish off Long Island and the Jersey coast. For the angler who is unable to afford the marlin fishing off Bimini or Panama, a 500-pound mako makes a very fine substitute indeed. Since 1961 John Casey has been in charge of shark research at Sandy Hook. Like his fellow scientists at the lab, Casey more or less drifted into marine biology. Studying upland game at the University of New Hampshire, he happened to become interested in the sea when he took a summer course at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

"When the laboratory started in 1961, we had a mild interest in sharks, mainly from the point of view of curiosity," Casey says. "We had no set programs, but from time to time we would examine catches that sportsmen brought in. Then the Smith Research and Development Corporation got in touch with Dr. Walford. Smith Research is associated with J. Howard Smith, Inc., a commercial menhaden company located in Lewes, Del. and Port Monmouth, N.J. There was a strong feeling among residents of coastal areas, particularly here in Jersey, that the menhaden boats were bringing sharks in close to shore and that the sharks were a danger to swimmers. Smith Research asked us if this were true, and our answer was that no one knows. Smith Research then suggested that the laboratory conduct a survey of sharks in this area and use their research vessel. There were no strings attached. We didn't have our boat, Challenger, at the time, and it looked like a fine opportunity to find out something about sharks. The main thing with Smith Research was that they wanted people to know that they were concerned.

"In August of 1961 we decided that the most practical thing we could do with the 85-foot trawler that Smith Research put at our disposal was to hold a general survey of sharks in the middle Atlantic bight, the area of coast that sweeps in from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. Out of that we picked an area for study, from Jones Inlet on Long Island to Cape Henlopen, Del. What we were after was species—composition, abundance, seasonal occurrence, distribution, sizes, food and reproductive habits. Then we wanted to relate these life-history factors to the physical and biological factors in the environment—the temperatures, depth, currents, salinity, wind direction. These were the broad objectives of the program. Since then we've carried on with it and expanded certain parts.

"The area we chose for study pretty much straddled the Jersey coast. The shore line was divided into eight areas, called transects, and the boundary line of each transect extended 40 miles to sea. For the hydrographic part of the survey we took surface-to-bottom temperatures, salinity samples, threw over drift bottles to study surface currents and threw over bottom drifters. This was done every five miles along the boundary line of each transect. The actual survey of sharks was done by long-line fishing, and we did enough fishing so that we feel we have a representative picture of the distribution of sharks in the overall area. We got white sharks—the most dangerous in this area—tiger sharks, duskies, threshers, makos, two species of hammerhead, dogfish, sandbar sharks [brown sharks] and sand sharks. Of the larger sharks, the sandbar and the dusky are the most common, and the tiger, the white and the hammerhead are not unusual. We studied their food habits, and 37 different food items, including shellfish, pelagic and bottom-dwelling fishes and garbage and offal, were found in their stomachs. For instance, we found a whole side of bacon, packages of sausage, cellophane and aluminum foil. We also found the remains of fish that had been cleaned aboard boats and then thrown overboard, though I'm sort of leery of saying this because it sounds like sportsmen are throwing over foods that attract sharks. Sharks are opportunistic feeders that take garbage and offal from boats, but they are not in any way dependent on this. Most of their food comes from nature, primarily bottom fishes—hakes, sea robins, goosefish. These are not too important from the sport-fishing standpoint. However, some of the more important and faster sharks, the makos and whites, feed on bluefish, menhaden, squid and those fishes associated with midwater or surface zones. Thus sharks are likely to be concentrated wherever natural foods are. It wasn't the Smith boats that were attracting sharks; it was the schools of menhaden.

"In 1962 we didn't have the Smith boat, and we didn't acquire our boat, Challenger, until the end of August. So we investigated the inshore areas in Delaware Bay and Sandy Hook as possible pupping and nursery grounds for the sandbar shark. We found that Delaware Bay was important and that Sandy Hook Bay was not. The sandbar shark moves in to Delaware Bay in late spring and drops the pups. The pups remain there all summer and then move out in the fall. When we got Challenger we continued this shark survey in a smaller, 200-square-mile area near Sandy Hook from western Long Island to northern New Jersey. We fished in areas where we caught sharks in 1961 to measure changes in abundance. In 1961 we caught 138 in this study area. In 1962 we caught 66, and in 1963 we caught only 6. The number of sharks we took out of this area may account for some of the decrease. Then, too, the average surface temperatures were cooler in 1962 and 1963. The number of menhaden and bluefish was also lower, perhaps as a result of these cooler water temperatures. Up until 1963 we hadn't been able to sample the study area for the entire season. We began fishing in May, and we didn't catch any sharks until mid-June. Our data from 1961 and 1962 showed that sharks departed from this area in late September or early October. The greatest number of large sharks are present from mid-August to mid-September. Their arrival and departure seem to be associated with surface temperatures.

"Last June we began a tagging program and registered 50 sportsmen in a preliminary study. This was very successful. The sportsmen went from Montauk Point to Chesapeake Bay, and they tagged 260 sharks. So far three of those sharks have been caught and the tags returned. The longest any tagged shark was out was 15 days, and it was caught 25 miles away from Montauk, where it had been tagged. The others were caught in the same area in even less time."

But as interesting as the research on sharks or bluefish or phytoplankton is for the scientists, the quest has barely begun. The gaps in knowledge are enormous, and appropriations slim. Dr. Walford sometimes likes to dream of what he would do with more money. "What I would like to have," he says, "is a large enough staff so that I could assign teams to work on a number of species simultaneously. As it is now, there are too few of us attempting to do too much. But I feel it is all right for us to 'do too much.' We have a vision of what needs to be done. And what needs to be done is to accumulate facts, all sorts of facts, about fishes and their environment for intelligent conservation action."

ILLUSTRATION PHOTOBiologist Lionel A. Walford heads up Sandy Hook Laboratory.

Cape Hatteras
Sandy Hook Marine Laboratory
Cape Cod