Beautiful Day at Hawks Channel

Sunday, January 30th 2011

The weather today was perfect. A balmy 73 degrees and clear blue skies gave the RJ Dunlap crew hope of another great day out on the water. Joined by MAST Academy, we set off towards Hawks Channel (which should really be renamed ‘Nurse Shark City’). Out of the eight sharks we tagged today, six of them were large, feisty nurse sharks. Using our handy sling however, each nurse was brought onto the boat, and controlled with ease.

RJD intern, Fiona, secures nurse shark on sling while measurements are taken. Click to enlarge.

Due to their incredibly tough skin, no biopsy or roto tags are used for the nurse sharks. One interesting point about some of the male nurse sharks we caught today is that their claspers were hard, signaling that it is close to mating season for this species are that these particular ones are sexually mature and ready to breed. We also brought up an adorable baby Atlantic Sharpnose for which we took length, muscle biopsy, fin clip, blood, and put on a roto and spaghetti tag. The little guy was released in great condition.

Graduate student, Austin Gallagher, taking a blood sample from the Sharpnose. Click to enlarge.

As the day was drawing to a close, we saw a large shark swimming close to the surface. Seeing how the day had went so far, we all expected yet another nurse shark, but to our surprise it ended up being a 9ft Great Hammerhead! The Hammerhead was not actually hooked, but he had managed to get the line tangled around his neck, right above the gills. We secured the hammerhead and quickly untangled him. We then attached a satellite tag, took a fin clip and set him on his way. He looked to be in perfect condition as he swam away from the boat.

RJD interns secure satellite tag to a Great Hammerhead. Click to enlarge.

Although today was not the most exciting day on the water, the Nurse sharks kept us on our toes and the Hammerhead was a great surprise. All in all, it was a fun-filled day with salt, sun, and most importantly, sharks! With a total of 7 satellite tagged sharks this weekend, I would say that this was a great start to a new year of research.

Josh Levy, RJD intern

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