A great start to the 2012 season!


The first shark trip of the spring semester took us out onto the water near the Key Largo Dry Rocks, which are part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. With a boat full of drumlines and eleven great students and two great adults from South Broward Marine Charter School’s Shark Club (go Reefdogs!) we headed out to sea.

The Reef Dogs and RJD team pose for a photo

On the way out we passed a wrecked barge and got to take a look at some of Florida’s beautiful seabirds, including double-crested cormorants, brown pelicans, and royal terns. Although we were lucky to have a warm and sunny day in January, it was also windy, and wind often leads to rough water: several of the students on the trip turned a little bit green over the course of the day.

After setting 10 drumlines, some of our students took a dip while we waited for our hook soak time to elapse. They had only a short time to swim, but made the most of it, reporting that the water was “freezing” before jumping right back in.

After hauling in a few lines, we brought in one that gave us quite a fight. It turned out to be a six-and-a-half foot female nurse shark who was not very interested in hanging around with us! While nurse sharks can be up to 14 feet in length and weigh up to 330 lbs, even a smaller one is still a very strong animal.  As RJD Interns worked to bring her on board so she could be measured and tagged, she managed to slip the hook out of her jaw and swim away.

Luckily she wasn’t the only shark in store for us. Another line yielded an immature male Caribbean reef shark. Although their range technically extends into the Carolinas, Caribbean reef sharks are rarely found north of the Florida Keys. They are “requiem” sharks, which means they belong to the family Carcharhinidae and are related to tiger, bull and blue sharks. They play an important role in regulating reef ecosystems and are therefore considered primarily a shallow water shark, but have been recorded swimming at depths up to 378 m (1240 feet!)

The Caribbean reef shark eyes that bait that got him into all this

RJD Interns are always happy to see a Caribbean reef shark, as they are very beautiful, “sharky” looking sharks (in fact, because of their good looks, and because they are easy to find and work with, the sharks you see on TV are often Caribbean reef sharks). Students from South Broward Marine Charter were a great help in working up the shark, assisting with collecting measurements, a fin clip, and a small muscle biopsy.

RJD students and interns restrain the Caribbean reef shark so they can take samples

Because some of our students were definitely wishing they had taken their Dramamine, we returned to dock after setting 20 hooks instead of the usual 30. Although it was a slightly shorter and rougher day than usual, any day you are out on the water meeting sharks is a good one!

-Catherine MacDonald, RJD intern

4 replies
  1. Angela Herrera
    Angela Herrera says:

    Although many got sick, I found my first shark trip incredible! I never thought I would actually be able to catch a shark, so the trip was personally wonderful :] I’m looking forward to more♥

  2. Jeimylee Camacho
    Jeimylee Camacho says:

    This shark trip was at least my 3rd one and i can say that i have learnt many things on each one. Even though many of us got sick i get to say how i watch a nurse shark make us look like little girls :). Going on shark trips just show many people and myself that we are helping the sharks little by little in saving them. I really appreciate UM for letting us help them in their research so that we can get a little taste in what it is to help. Other then that i cant wait to go on the next shark trip!!!

  3. Claudia Pinochet
    Claudia Pinochet says:

    This was my first trip (: Although almost everybody got sick [including me :(] we managed to catch a nice male (: I’m still looking forward for more trips to help tag sharks (: Also to take nice, good-looking pictures of them! I also want to thank the UM for letiting students like us help them in their shark research (: Can’t wait for the next trip!

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