Thursday, October 20th 2011
Greetings friends, family, fans, and extended network of the RJD shark team! Today was a day of cameras, more cameras, bloody bait, patience, and oh yeah, a totally awesome bull shark.
Along with a very skilled and decorated group of journalists, the shark team took to the beautiful blue waters of South Florida yet again in search of our beloved fish. The morning preparation went off without a hitch as both the shark team and guests arrived on time and preparations were made to get out on the water. After the last ‘i’ was dotted and final ‘t’ was crossed, the boat got under way in search of the our finned friends.
Everything was being done in typical textbook form with enthusiasm, hopes, and excitement buzzing in the salty air. Despite our best efforts and expectations to bring the prized fish on board, the sharks had other plans. While the team was teaching the whole time about sharks and conservation, the sharks were giving us a lesson of their own – called patience. Fading excitement was continuously relit by stories of past trips and of course shark dances to call them to the boat.
We had all but lost hope as Rachael was pulling in the 30th line when she called out that the hook timer read 5 minutes and the line was taut. Suddenly the boat was hit by a shock wave of renewed exhilaration and everyone on board began preparing to carry out his or her designated responsibility.
As if everyone on board had done this for years, the shark was worked on by a very deliberate and precise group of journalists that could have easily passed for researchers. Overall, the catch of the adolescent 6.5ft male bull shark was a huge success and the data gathered is invaluable – including that which we’ll get from the satellite tag he now sports. The 5 remaining drumlines proved to be anticlimactic with only bait remaining on the hooks, but the experience of one shark for the group was well worth a day on the water.
Also, visit our Vimeo page (http://vimeo.com/31096818) to see the beautiful video our lovely Multimedia Specialist, Christine Shepard, put together for the Society of Environmental Journalists’ members that joined us out on the water today.
As a veteran member of the shark team, it is hard to overlook the catching percentage. Worldwide data shows that shark populations are plummeting and days like today are a real eye-opener to that finding. Shark fishing and shark finning are serious threats to these animals, and because even today they still have minimal restrictions, monitoring and enforcement, we are literally watching the numbers decline before our eyes. We caught one shark today and attached a satellite tag to it, but I speak for the entire shark team when I say that we are working tirelessly to increase that number. You can track Ben, and all 70+ sharks we’ve satellite tagged, at https://sharkresearch.rsmas.miami.edu/learning-tools/.
Robbie Christian, RJD Shark Intern