Friday, April 22nd 2011
It was a textbook Miamian spring morning, clear blue skies with the sun shining bright. For the RJ Dunlap squad, the smell of bait sparked the prospect of sharks. Our crew on board today was also hoping to pull in a few sharks. Instead of students today, the RJD program was taking out a special group of representatives from Wells Fargo, one of our proud sponsors without whom we would be unable to perform our research. Our sights today were set on a new site near the edge of Everglades National Park. After zipping out to the location, we quickly dropped 10 drumlines and had lunch.
We prepped the group on how to handle, measure, tag, and take a biopsy of the shark’s muscle tissue and then set off to retrieve the first line. With the day so young, we were not put off by the first line retaining nothing. Nor by the second…or third…with the same result. After about the 10th line however, morale was beginning to grow thin. Occasionally a hook timer would be popped and hopes would soar, just to be dashed by a slack line with an empty hook.
Yet on the 15th line our patience was duly rewarded with a gorgeous lemon shark. It put up a good fight in the shallow waters bordering the park but we eventually coaxed it aboard and fit the pump into its mouth. The interns secured the shark and supervised as our guests came in one by one as instructed and efficiently carried out their respective duties. Samples were taken, measurements recorded, tags applied, and photos snapped without hesitation as the shark’s well-being remained our number one concern.
The day pressed onward and we were rewarded again with another shark, also a lemon. Again we did not hesitate with any of the tasks as the group worked even more efficiently this time with the recently acquired experience. Before we knew it, the shark was heading home and we too were soon to follow suit. Packing up the last drumline of the day, the boat turned and started for shore.
It was a day with only two sharks. They were both beautiful and a true pleasure to sample from, but still there were only two. The fight to save sharks does not only pertain to international waters. It is taking place in our front yard. Our efforts are not futile and the information we gather from these trips is being used to help understand and protect the creatures we love and the ecosystems they form part of. On behalf of the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, I would like to thank the representatives that came out from Wells Fargo not only for a successful trip today, but also for providing funding that allows our research to push forward.
Robbie Christian, RJD Intern