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Passport to Nature: The Captain's Quest

Searching for fish and cold-water coral reefs off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland.  (all photos © Daniel White/TNC)

Anglers gather aboard Captain Monty Hawkins' Morning Star for a day of fishing off Ocean City, Maryland.

For the past 34 years, Captain Monty’s office has been the wheelhouse of a fishing boat. The Conservancy is translating his knowledge of cold-water coral reefs into maps that will help inform ocean planning.

Ship's mates Jake Shaffer and Jake Knox deploy concrete oyster castles to help expand the Jimmy Jackson Memorial Reef. Coral will grow if you provide a foundation, Monty explains. “You can’t stop it.”

“We’re trying to figure out how much coral patch habitat remains out here,” says Jay Odell. “We know what is left is significant and needs to be conserved.”

Captain Monty at the helm of the Morning Star. Together, we’re seeking to conserve critical habitat on which fish — and Monty’s livelihood — depend.

The first catch of the day, a 20-pound mahi-mahi, comes aboard after a lucky strike on the way to Monty's target fishing spots.

A black sea bass — just before going back into the water.

Mate in Training Fletcher holding a flounder.

As the group fished, a reminder appeared on the horizon of just how busy our ocean can be.

Major mid-Atlantic ports serve as critical nodes in national and global transportation systems, handling over 9 million containers and 233 million tons of cargo in 2011.

A pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins took advantage of the waves created by the ship's bow, surfing alongside.

Larger cetaceans, like migrating whales, can be especially vulnerable to ship strikes. Better planning and understanding of how our ocean is used — by both people and nature — can offer solutions.

An angler fishes from the jetty as we re-enter the inlet at Ocean City, Maryland.

View of Ocean City from the Morning Star. At least 57 million people live work, and play along the mid-Atlantic coast. Return to story

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