Fifty feet beneath the green waters of Alaska's Inside Passage, a pair of divers hunts for sea cucumbers. Clad in bulky dry suits, they paw through a patch of kelp and note the presence of one of the slug like echinoderms. These aren't commercial divers collecting sea cucumbers to sell; they're Fish and Game biologists surveying the population.
The Fish and Game diving program provides valuable biological information and stock assessments to the resource managers throughout Southeast Alaska. This important resource data that helps biologists manage the herring, herring roe, red urchin and gooey-duck clam fisheries. Sea cucumber surveys help set the harvest guidelines for the fall dive fishery. Divers also survey abalone, and are helping to document and control an invasive tunicate near Sitka.
Diving in the cold water of Alaska is a gear intensive undertaking. Divers wear warm undergarments, like long underwear made out of a sleeping bag, under a water impenetrable dry suit. A scuba tank filled with a mix of pressurized oxygen and nitrogen provides air to breathe underwater, as well as a way to pressurize the suit to compensate for the increase in water pressure as they descend. Because dry suits are very buoyant most divers carry 32 pounds of weights in their dry suit pockets, four to eight pounds in the shoulder pockets and four pounds around their ankles to keep them submerged.