Shark Tagging with ScienceOnline Oceans

by Daniela Escontrela, RJD Intern

Another exciting day of shark tagging lay ahead and I was really excited to get out on the water before the week that lay ahead for me. Today was going to be an unusual trip; and in other aspects a first for RJD.

For one thing our group was going to have two half day trips with different groups in the morning and afternoon. On the other hand, while our trip was going out, another RJD trip would simultaneously be running with a different group and crew. We were both going shark tagging off Key Biscayne and while we were on the Diver’s Paradise Boat with Eric (our captain), the other trip was on the R/V Ensley with Curt.

Our crew consisted of Austin, Nick, Emily, Beau, David, Christine and myself – the A team. Our participants would be a very diverse and excited group coming from the ScienceOnline Oceans conference that our very own David Shiffman had organized; in addition we also had Christine’s mom join us on the trip.

We had an early morning, meeting up at RSMAS at 5:30 to pick up gear; by 7:30 all the participants were with us on the Diver’s Paradise boat ready to get under way. We headed out, and after a short ride of only 25 minutes we were at our site deploying the drumlines with the help of the participants.

As we waited for our lines to soak, Austin explained the shark work up process; and since we didn’t have a stuffed shark to serve as a visual aid, the Shiffman shark (aka David) was our pretend sharky for the day.

David demonstrates to the first group of participants how the fishing gear works

David demonstrates to the first group of participants how the fishing gear works

 

An hour later we went back to pick up our lines. To our dismay line after line we found nothing. The bait was missing but no sharks, where they outsmarting us? Twenty lines later we came up empty handed, a very rare occurrence for the RJD team. We decided to set out five more lines and soak them for half an our but still nothing.

David and Emily along with participants from the first group do the shark dance in the hopes of attracting some sharks

David and Emily along with participants from the first group do the shark dance in the hopes of attracting some sharks

 

We headed back to the dock disappointed that we didn’t get anything but still happy that we got to spend a day out on the water. We sent off our first group and collected our second group of also very excited participants. By 12:30 we were under way again; however for this second half day trip with the second set of science online participants we decided to change the site and go to the channel.

We deployed our lines again with the help of this new, fresh group of participants and repeated the process of waiting and hour and demonstrating the shark work up process with the help of the Shiffman shark.

Austin, along with the help of the Shiffman shark, demonstrates what will happen if a shark is caught

Austin, along with the help of the Shiffman shark, demonstrates what will happen if a shark is caught

 

When we went to pick up our lines again, our first line came up empty. For our second line however, we were a bit luckier. One of the younger participants on the boat (eleven years old) pulled up this drum and she must be good luck because we had a beautiful bull shark on the other end of the line. We pulled it up to the boat and secured it along the back of the boat. This was a feisty shark but we got the whole work up process done in a matter of minutes thanks to the help of the participants.

The youngest participant on the boat is the lucky one to pull up a bull shark

The youngest participant on the boat is the lucky one to pull up a bull shark

After the bull shark was realized in good condition, we went to pick up the rest of our drums. We had a couple of false alarms and we think a shark popped off one of our hooks. We ended up not catching anything on the rest of the lines.

The bull shark receives a quick work up

The bull shark receives a quick work up

 

We headed back to the boat with an excited group of participants who had just seen a Bull shark first hand. We said good bye to the group and the RJD crew took all the gear back to the lab. Forty five lines later and I was exhausted but there’s nothing like getting to spend a full day out on the water in sunny Florida!

 

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