February 7th, 2010
Today was an amazing day for the RJ Dunlap Shark Program. As usual, the day started off with a morning of excitement, getting all the gear loaded onto the boat. The kids were chattering and joking about what shark they were going to see first, most kids wanted to see the Great Hammerhead. Every time we leave the dock or at least every time I have been on the trip, a pod of dolphins escort us out into the blue ocean, not a bad way to start the morning. Mostly, every time a shark trip goes out we have a group of school kids join us, giving them hands on experience on shark research and a chance to be apart of this amazing experience of saving these animals. On Sunday, we were delighted to have a group of kids from Palmer Trinity High School brought out by Leann Winn, a Marine Science teacher and Shark Conservationist who has been coming out and helping the program for a few years now.
Sunday’s group consisted of about 8 students and 7 interns who were ready and excited to get shark tagging! After setting out all of our shark gear, which doesn’t take very long, we had some lunch, talked about how badly we wanted to deploy a satellite tag. Before I get to the rest of my amazing story, here is some information on our satellite tags and why they are so unique. Our tags are custom made with the best safety of the shark in mind.
1) Although we mount the tag on the fin, we use special neoprene protectors between the tag and fin so that NO metal or plastic touches the shark fin (this prevents vibrations on the fin and prevents fouling and metal corrosion on the fin).
2) Instead of using plastic rods to secure the tag on the fin (which fouls and also does not disintegrate and never comes off)…we use special very expensive medical grade titanium bolts. This prevents any fin damage, corrosion or fouling. These special bolts are similar to what is used in human surgery.
3) The bolts are attached by metal nuts (which do not touch the shark skin) but only the titanium bolts. In the seawater this causes a galvonic charge, causing the nuts to slowly corrode. Thus, the tag will eventually fall off!!
In the meantime, these tags provide real-time GPS info on shark movements. We can attach the tag in less than 4 minutes, with water pump in shark mouth. Shark swims away in great condition! Pretty cool right?
Why am I telling you about these tags? Because we got to deploy two of them!! After lunch we started to pick up our drumlines hoping a shark was there, after the 10th one, we started to wonder if the dramatic drop in ocean temperatures has made the sharks move to another location and then we heard the Captain Curt say, “Get ready guys, there is a large great hammerhead on the line, lets get the large satellite tag out”. Needless to say, we were applauding, yelling, and scrabbling to our places to get ready. We brought the female 8.5 ft great hammerhead shark to the boat, deployed the tag in less then 4 minutes and the shark swam away in great condition.
Then after pulling in some very large nurse sharks reaching 227 cm, we hear the captain yell again, “Your not going to believe it, we caught another larger great hammerhead, hurry and release the nurse shark”. We were still shocked from the first great hammerhead, now a second? We managed to bring the large male hammerhead to the boat, deploy the tag, and watch him swim away into the blue. These sharks are extremely rare and their declining numbers are getting worse, so it was an honor to complete this mission.
I could write four pages on how amazing Sunday’s trip was, but I won’t. Just know that being apart of this program is a rewarding experience, specially knowing that high school kids can be apart of it. Thank you to everyone who was involved all weekend and especially Sunday. You guys ROCK! GO TEAM GO!
You can track our satellite tagged shark’s daily, real time, movements using Google Earth by going to : http://www.sharkresearch.rsmas.miami.edu/learning-tools/follow-sharks/
Also..find out how you can Adopt a Shark.
Brendal Davis (Shark Program INTERN)