A Familiar Surprise!

Thursday, May 10th

by Laurel Zaima, RJD intern

It’s time to celebrate! Exams are finally over, and summer has officially started! What better way to kickoff summer 2012 than going on an exhilarating and action-packed shark tagging trip. After an early morning, 2 hour drive down to Islamorada, all of the RJD interns took a second to stretch and got right to work. Captain Curt notified us that we will be adding 100 foot extensions onto the already existing 100 foot long drumlines (the fishing gear that we use to catch the sharks), which means we will be going to the deep water reef (125-145 foot depth). I was extremely excited because last time we went to this fishing spot we were extremely successful!

After we brought all of the gear on the boat, all we had to do was wait for the rest of our group. We were taking out some gentlemen that were members of the bonefish and tarpon trust fishermen and conservationist group, and Joe Romeiro, a filmmaker. Susan Gerrish, the RSMAS Assistant Director of Advancement, and Rose Mann, the RSMAS Assistant Dean of Advancement, also joined us on this excursion. The water was calm and the skies were clear; the only thing that could have made this trip any better was if my mom and brother would have been able to join us. They both drove down to Miami from Michigan to help me move all my stuff back home for the summer, and they had hoped that they would be able to shark tag with me before we made our long trek back. Unfortunately, family members are not allowed on most trips because other groups are scheduled for that trip already scheduled to take out another group.

Little did I know, everyone was playing a trick on me. As we organized the gear, I turned around only to see my mom and brother start boarding the boat. I was completely shocked! Susan Gerrish and Dr. Neil Hammerschlag had secretly talked to my family and planned for them to come on the boat without telling me. I was overjoyed and extremely pumped because I could finally show my family the work and research that I do for the RJD program. It was going to be a perfect day!

Once we reached our destination, we baited and released the first 10 drumlines. We baited the drumlines with Jack and Sailfish (yum! A real special treat) so the odds were in our favor. The first 9 drumlines were shark-less and everyone started questioning our luck, but as soon as we pulled up the 10th drumline, everything changed. The 10th drumline caught a large mature male Bullshark! Everyone performed their jobs with speed and efficiency so we could collect our data in a minimal amount of time. We also Satellite tagged this beautiful boy so we can also track his movements throughout the year. We then proceeded to catch another male Bullshark after the next couple drumlines! We took all of the data and measurements needed, but we did not satellite tag this guy.

We then pulled up a small female Scalloped Hammerhead Shark. The RJD team worked on her alone because Hammerhead Sharks are extremely sensitive to stress so we wanted to get her in the water as fast as possible. We successfully worked like a well-oiled machine and we re-entered her into the water in record time!

Captain Curt and Austin holding the Scalloped Hammerhead right before her release

The next 6 sharks that we pulled up were all Sandbar Sharks. These sharks have been known to be particularly sassy and feisty so we had to make sure we secured them before we started collecting data. Right before the release of one of the Sandbar Sharks, my family and I took a quick photo with the shark (I’m thinking Christmas Card!).

Intern Laurel Zaima and her family take a picture with a Sandbar Shark

It was a fun-filled and thrilling day! However, after pulling up 25 drumlines, 5000 feet of line, and 9 sharks, I can speak for everyone when I say: we were exhausted. Nothing could end the day better than sitting on the bow of the boat, wind in your hair and sun on your face, to take a little nap. It was the best day ever!

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