April 17th, 2010..a mixed day of sharks and good data.

Saturday, April 17, 2010:

It was nice to wake up in The Keys instead of having to drive that 2-hour stretch from home.  That’s probably all that was good about the day, just kidding we did get some sharks, but I think we were all a little spoiled (rightfully!) from Friday.  However, we all had an extra little umph! (not just motivated from the BEAU-TI-FUL Hammerhead we caught and satellite tagged the day before), but because the group of high school students coming out with us are participating in a nationwide contest to have President Obama speak at their graduation; and they wanted their activities with us to be part of their video for the contest!

M.A.S.T. Academy chooses the RJ Dunlap Program to be apart of their video contest, to get President Obama to speak at their graduation. (click to enlarge)

As finalists, the video will be posted on the White House web page for public voting. How awesome is that! We were very happy to hear that M.A.S.T. Academy, a school we have been working with for years, was participating in such a prestigious contest.  Not to mention the chance for America and the President of the United States to hear about us and what we are doing to protect sharks.

View MAST’s  video and vote for MAST online at www.whitehouse.gov/commencement. The voting period will last from Monday, April 26th at 8 am EST to Thursday, April 29th at 11:59 pm EST.

Now back to sharking.  Today, we chose a spot outside of protected Park waters to try our luck for the day.

Julia, a shark intern is helping a student take data from our YSI machine. (click to enlarge)

Although we successfully tagged three sharks, we faced various frustrations throughout the day.  Our final count for the day was one blacktip, one blacknose (both not over 4.5ft), and three larger nurse sharks.

Student’s help tag and release a blacknose shark. (please click to enlarge)

Shark team and students quickly attend to the blacknose shark, tagging and releasing the little guy back into the water. (please click to enlarge)

Two of those nurse sharks however got loose and we were only able to obtain a mere size estimate from both.  For us regulars on the boat, we consider this quite a lame turnout.  Especially when we find such greater variety and more sizable specimens inside the park waters, it was quite disappointing.  At the same time, it is “good” for us to collect this type of data and to observe these occurrences, because they are evidence of the effects of the park’s controls.  In fact, it is these results that drive our studies in the first place.  The decreasing shark populations in open waters, I think, motivate everyone on our team to participate passionately in this program.  It is invaluable to see the trends so that we can hopefully  back up our arguments against shark fishing and so that the public can use empirical evidence, not theoretical to see the decline in shark populations.  We all LOVE sharks.  Their essence is what brings grown men to throw up their hands in fists, against their temples to pray for hammerheads, point their fingers like horns for bull sharks, and growl like tigers for tiger sharks. They bring girls to kiss tuna heads in hopes of making a lucky bait, and fill underneath their nails with fish meat in anxious baiting of the hooks. We all want to see their numbers rebound and a day like today serves us in at least one way: motivation.

Virginia Ana Ansaldi (Shark Program Intern)

Caroline the Hammerhead, added to the family of sat tag sharks!

“Thank God it’s Friday,” is what most of us were thinking as we set out on April 16th.  With South Broward High School, all of us from the shark program, and a few special visitors, the energy on the boat was ridiculously high!  Curt’s wife Kelli, along with several other members of their family, including Curt’s dad and Kelli’s niece, Sophi were along for the ride.  It is always interesting to meet the characters who spawned and raised the ones we love!

Kelli, Captain Curt, Sophi, and Dr. Hammerschlag getting ready for a sharky adventure. (please click to enlarge)

Anyhow, we headed out into Everglades National Park, where we were hoping to bring in a big catch.  I think even the dolphins we met along the way knew we were on a mission.  One of the dominate male dolphins even displayed an aggressive tail slapping fit as if to say, “You want a piece of me?”   Needless to say, we made it past the pod of dolphins unscathed.  As we arrived on site and put our drumlines out, we decided that our signature Hammerhead circle was in order.

South Broward High School chanting the hammer dance, trying to bring us hammer luck! (please click to enlarge)

Some may think that our little traditions and superstitions are silly, but I think when we pulled in our first drumline to find a 12 ft great hammerhead on the end of the line, we all wanted to gloat and give a, whole-hearted, “I told you so.”  We put a satellite tag on her and watched her swim away and transmit for the first time!  The crew agreed to name the shark “Caroline M. Hammerhead” in honor of Dr. Hammerschlag’s wife, although I think the data sheet reads “Sweet Caroline” (a clever pun on Neil Diamond’s song- get it…Neil and Caroline!- don’t worry, it took me a second too!).

Caroline, the new 12 ft Great Hammerhead getting ready to be added to our family of satellite tagged sharks! (click to enlarge)

Caroline, swimming away with her new satellite tag, now let’s track her!

After we watched our HUGE first catch dip under the surface again, we moved on to the rest of our drumlines.  A few lines later, we snagged an amazing Lemon shark and pulled him onto the boat to measure, tag, biopsy, take a finclip and blood sample; and for the first time, quickly sketch our catch (thanks to Sophi!).  As we slipped our Lemon shark back into the water, however, one of our crew members seemed less than pleased…Sophi couldn’t understand why we would name our Hammerhead but not the Lemon shark we had just caught.  With our 1st grader Sophi to the rescue, the Lemon was quickly dubbed “Larry” in honor of her Granddad.

Larry the Lemon, named by Sophi, a 1st grader who came to witness the awe of sharks. (please click to enlarge)

Dr. Hammerschlag, Ashley, and Sophi posing for a picture with Larry the Lemon. (please click to enlarge)

Sophi decided that Larry the Lemon deserved his own portrait, and so she gave him one! (please click to enlarge)

After we watched our new friend Larry the Lemon swim down through the water, we were really excited to see what the rest of our lines had in store for us.  Although we continued to pull up empty line after empty line, the Hammerhead and Lemon were proving to be enough to keep our spirits high.  As we pulled in the next drumline, we noticed that the line was taught, and we all immediately jumped up to catch a glimpse of what it might be…a Nurse shark.  Not many people like going to the doctor, let alone getting poked and prodded by the nurse, which is why I have come to realize that the “Nurse” shark is an incredibly fitting name for a shark that we are less than thrilled to see breach the surface at the end of our line.  Nurse sharks have the reputation of rolling, which can make it more difficult for us to tag the shark.  Regardless of how we feel about them, this Nurse shark proved to be quite a fighter…to the extent of breaking the monofilament of our tail rope to pieces.  With one more nurse shark tagged, and one less usable tail rope, we moved on to the other side of the channel.

Dr. Hammerschlag and team releasing a nurse shark, yeah! (please click to enlarge)

We pulled in another Nurse and a few more empty lines, intermittent with a few fish traps filled with pinfish (helpful hint: never try and slide them back in with your bare feet, Virginia and I know from experience that the puncture wounds from their spikey little fins are less than enjoyable!)

It had been an amazing day of Shark research, but as we returned to Seabase, the sweet scent of fish guts, the lullaby of our boat engine, and the tossing of the boat seemed to rock us all to sleep.  I for one can say I dreamed sweet dreams of the ocean, the sun, and the amazing shark Converse shoes that Sophi was rocking that day (I’ve heard talk of begging Converse to make them in adult sizes!…sorry Dom, they have refused to make a women’s 11…).  It was another great day with some really amazing sharks and even more amazing company!

Coolest shark shoes ever, and no they don’t make them in adult size, so sad! (please click to enlarge)

The shark team is taking a much needed break after a hard day of shark research. (please click to enlarge)

Don’t forget, you can track our satellite tagged sharks too!

We now have 6 Great Hammerheads, 1 Scalloped Hammerhead, and BD the Bull Shark.

Please follow the link and track away! https://www.sharkresearch.rsmas.miami.edu/learning-tools/

Ashley Schenk (Shark Intern)

Last shark trip for month of March.


It was another beautiful day on the water with pleasant, calm weather – a slight wind made the surface choppy, but we still decided to head for the clearer waters outside the bay.  Joe Romeiro and Tim Divoll joined us again for the third trip of the weekend.  It was our last chance to try to find the ever-elusive hammerhead for Joe and to provide Tim with some last bit of experience with our team.  However, for the first time on the Curt-a-Sea boat, the interns were outnumbered!  Only Brendal and myself were there to represent the shark program (I hope you others who couldn’t make it are feeling better).  However, both Tim and Joe had become proficient members of the team and helped out a lot!  We also had Captain Curt’s friend and mate, Chad, who worked as hard as two people!

Tim, pondering on what sharks we may catch!

Brendal is setting out the lines, wishing for sharks..

The morning started with the drumlines going out and everyone in good spirits despite the previous day’s low catch number.  So with everything seemingly in our favor, we prepared ourselves for whatever the waters just outside of Florida Bay had to offer.  Thankfully, we did not have to wait as long as the previous day to have a shark on the other end.  By the end of our standard sets, we caught four nurse sharks and one Atlantic sharpnose shark!  Unfortunately, we still had not caught the great hammerhead Joe had wanted.  In an effort to find one, we set out ten more drumlines.

Joe is helping tag the nurse shark in water, makes it a lot easier!

Adam is taking a blood sample to study isotopes.

Unfortunately, it just didn’t seem as though a hammerhead was part of the deal for the day.  We did catch a few more nurse sharks, but nothing more than that.  Although it may not have seemed like an ideal finish to the weekend, we still learn a lot from what we catch – or in this case what we do not.  Normally, this time of year we see an increase in the number of large sharks we catch (not including nurse sharks), so you might say that there’s “no reason why we shouldn’t be catching a hammerhead.”  But believe it or not, between changes in weather patterns and water quality, there may be several good reasons why we mostly found nurse sharks.  This is why we’re out here!  Every little bit of data we collect means that we know that much more about the animals with which we are working.

Was it an ideal trip?  Maybe not.  But with the weather starting to turn warm again, and nice clear water, it certainly was not a bad birthday weekend for yours truly.  Watch for our next trips, maybe with the changing weather we might start catching some truly amazing things!

Regards and good sharking,

-Adam Matulik

Senior Intern

No data is data…this is what research is about!

Saturday March 27th, 2010

At Least We Got 10 Drumlines in the Water…Right?

Oh the Florida Keys- sun, sand and blue skies- what more could one ask for?  One could say that nothing else is needed in this concoction of elements to create a perfect day. However, there is a select few of us who would like to see one more element to be added to it- shark fishing!! A new day brought forth a new adventure and possibility to land that elusive hammerhead. Coming off of what one would say a trip of “epic” proportions on Friday, hopes were high that the streak would continue. The day could not have been any better- sun, winds calm with just a light chop on the water. Luckily for us, Joe and Tim were able to join us for another excursion into the depths of Florida Bay!! As we headed out, I heard stories and saw reenactments of the great fight between Brendal and the sawfish, the good luck hair locks and the first ever bull shark (BD Bull) to have a spot satellite tag placed on it. This got the adrenaline running and I may have done a dance on the boat to show my excitement…thankfully there is no evidence to prove this!

To channel the same energy, we ended up going to the same area as the day before to increase the chances to the same success. At lightning speed, the drumlines entered the water and the signature “TEN DRUMLINES IN THE WATER” resonated throughout the boat and the bay. Done with the easy work, it was time for lunch and the big wait to see what the day brought us. Time slowly ticked by and the excitement mounted- would today surpass the greatness of yesterday?

As we wait for the sharks, it’s lunchtime! (click to enlarge)

With every drumline brought the promise of a shark; however the first set of five only brought back empty hooks or torn bait. Being one not to worry, Adam busted out his infamous “hammer dance” and I joined him in calling the sharks to feast on the delicious mackerel, barracuda and tuna steaks we placed in the water. The second round of drumlines again brought up nothing….but several bite marks were present on the line, so at least sharks are active in the area. Feeling a bit down, Neil called for a “hammerhead meeting” which we all put on our “hammerheads” and gather around in a circle….an awesome picture by Joe shows the ritual in progress. Going back on the final rounds of drumlines, we pondered what could be the reason of why the sharks were not taking the bait. The weather and conditions were better, however, there was a good amount of other boats out in the Bay and also the possibility of a larger shark prowling the area, scaring smaller ones away. The third round once again landing nothing, expect for a sail catfish on the last line brought in.

The shark team getting together for a Hammerhead Chant, yes it has worked before.(click to enlarge)

Looking at the fourth and final round, I’ll admit I was starting to feel bummed but kept a glimmer of hope in the back of my head.  The first line in the set looked like the other 15, but when the line was reeled in, there was a bit of tension and drag. Lo and behold what was on the other end? A SHARK!! This female juvenile black tip, approximately 112 cm, was exhausted and needed to be removed from the line quickly. Swift thinking and movement by the group allowed the juvenile to be released in a stable condition. Seeing this, excitement started to build up again….could we go four for four on the rest? Unfortunately, no such luck, as the next three brought in anything but empty hooks. Placing all hope on the last line of the day, we did one more “hammer chant” and brought it in. Tension was present on the line the entire time and we were able to bring in our second shark for the day- a 113 cm female blacknose. Even though the day did not live up to the hype of the previous day, we still were able to get two small sharks. And when research is a stake, anything is better than nothing.  No data is in fact great data, by finding that in one day we can catch a variety of sharks compared to almost none in another will tell us something down the road. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be able to rebound and thanks to everybody for yet another exciting expedition!

Julia is helping release a blacktip shark after it was measured and tagged. (click to enlarge)

Shark Team quickly trying to tag and release a young blacktip. (click to enlarge)

Don’t forget you can track our satellite tagged sharks at https://www.sharkresearch.rsmas.miami.edu/learning-tools/, we have 4 Great Hammerheads, 1 Scalloped Hammerhead, and 1 Bull Shark.  Keep up with their movements!

Elasmobranch love,

Julia Lampe (Shark Intern)

One of the best shark trips ever! 3/26/2010

Sooo, I totally did not expect what 3/26/10 had in store for me when I woke up, exhausted at 5 am and under a not-to-promising-looking dark sky.  “At least its hot,” I thought, and headed out.  Furthermore discouraging was the POURING RAIN all the way down US 1 and the expressway; not to mention the JOLTING hit to the back of my car by some lady who didn’t know red lights means STOP.  But, what the hayy?  When I called to confirm our outing given the weather, Neil rhetorically asked me “Are you a shark researcher or what” .  Well, shucks, I guess I am, and kept going (P.S. Magically nothing happened to my car, in case anyone was wondering).  The rain stopped once I got down to Homestead and the weather cleared up and it turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day.  Once I got Captain Curt’s house we loaded what we had and drove over to SeaBase to get the rest of the equipment and lunch.  Curt spotted a nice little ray on the side of the boat and made me think the day would be more promising than I thought.  And it was.

Group photo of our shark team, we got Captain Curt to smile! (click to enlarge)

A really cool stingray spotted off the boat by Capitan Curt. (click to enlarge)

On the way to our first spot we were followed by a small pod of dolphins that enjoyed jumping through our wake (makes me remember why I live in South Florida ).  As I spotted another ray jumping out of the water, Neil said, “I hope he’s running from a hammerhead.”  Me too Neil.  Well, no hammerheads BUT 2 bull sharks, 2 blacknoses, 3 blacktips and a FOURTEEN FOOT SAWFISH!  Yes, you’ve read that right: a 420 cm long sawfish.  These animals are absolutely incredible, so incredible this blog entry should really be titled “I saw a dinosaur today.”  They are the only shark on the endangered species list in the United States so there is no tagging, no sampling allowed, so of course we were sorry we caught it accidentally, but, personally, SO EXCITED!  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I had been waiting for mine. We took an estimated measurement while Captain Curt and our team careful, very quickly and safely removed the hook and away it swam in great condition. We also notified the appropriate authorities of this very rare and incredible catch.

A 14ft sawfish caught in our gear by accident, we released the shark as quickly as possible in great condition. Proper authorities were notified (please click to enlarge)

Tagging and releasing a blacktip shark. (click to enlarge)

Virginia’s shark tattoo is bringing in a shark to tag. (click to enlarge)

As the sawfish swam happily away, I think it was Joe (from 333 Productions, who was with us that day taking pictures and filming) that said something like “oh wow it really looks like a ray and shark together.”  Curt calmly responds, “That’s exactly what it is; it’s a ray that has mated with a shark and a chainsaw.”  The laughter that followed definitely relieved the stress we all acquired from trying to release that beautiful being as quickly as possible.  It really was like seeing something out of a fairy tale, or a class B horror film, I’m not sure which.  I didn’t quite know what to expect as I waited for it to surface. I thought a mermaid was going to jump on the boat, or something.  It was crazy too because the breeze we had been enjoying completely stopped and the sky got real dark just as we were picking up that drumline, it felt like Jurassic Park.  Brendal said she felt something coming and once the shark reached the boat, she actually felt it because it smacked her across the face as she helped to secure it and remove the hook!  We cut a piece of her hair for good luck  to bring on future trips since she rarely has a trip without a hammerhead (or some equally impressive animal).  Whether it was her luck or an early birthday present from the sea to me (which I’d like to think it is because my birthday was two days later!), we’ll never know, but we got some GREAT sharks that day.

Dr. Hammerschlag, Captain Curt, and shark team put the first ever spot satellite tag on a bull shark, her name is BD Bull.(click to enlarge)

Out of two bull sharks (which I hadn’t seen around for a while), big mamajammas, we successfully deployed another satellite tag on the bigger of the two (210 cm long)!! The first spot satellite tag EVERRRR to go out on a bull shark!!! We named her BD Bull (for Miss Brendal Davis).  You can follow her and our other sharks live on our website, just go to https://www.sharkresearch.rsmas.miami.edu/learning-tools/ and pick a shark!  Seeing a variety of sharks on the trip was awesome, since as of late, we have not been lucky enough to see a good diversity.  Don’t get me wrong, I love wrestling a little nurse shark (to make you sweat!), but it was nice to see more variety.

One of two bull sharks caught that day.(click to enlarge)

We had another guest on the boat, Tim Divoll from the Biodiversity Research Institute in Maine.  He has been analyzing some of the mercury samples from our trips and has also done work in Belize, collecting samples from dead sharks that are sought out as a food source during Lent in that area.  You can imagine how stoked he was with the outcome of the trip too.  Beats working with dead sharks, huh Tim?  Thanks for all your hard work in the lab, too! Without his work we would not be able to conduct the projects we are pursuing, so it was a pleasure to take him out one the boat so he could experience being in the field.

Our guest Tim Divoll from Maine, who was an amazing intern all weekend long. Thanks Tim! (Click to enlarge)

After we put everything away and we were getting ready to head back to Captain Curt’s we had another visitor! A tiny little warbler bird landed on me! Tim told me they migrate from Costa Rica all the way up to Maine, sometimes even Canada; it was super cute and had a nice yellow and orange color pattern.  Granted, it scared the life out of me before I could realize how beautiful it was (I’m not quite used to having birds land on me – who would figure, you play with sharks all day and a little bird scares you? Weird…), but I guess he must have been tired because he stayed on the boat all the way back to shore.  Joe named him Steve and took him under his wing before Dr. Hammerschlag could throw him in the bait cage (totally kidding).  Steve hitched a ride back with us to land and we all lived happily ever after.

This is Steve, a little bird that hitched a ride on our boat and helped put away our shark gear! (click to enlarge)

Steve is helping Captain Curt bring in a shark. (click to enlarge)

Thanks to everyone involved, specially Joe Romeiro from 333 Productions, for all your great video and pictures from all our trips!

By: Virginia Ansaldi (Shark Intern)

Amazing day of shark tagging 3/14/10


We were wary about how the conditions would be due to those of the day prior.  Nonetheless, I made my way down with 11 students from Palmer Trinity School to meet Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, Joe Romeiro from 333 Productions, and the rest of the shark team interns.  We were also accompanied by another VIP guest, Jillian Morris, Executive Director & Education Coordinator for Oceanic Allstars.  Jillian acts as a photographer, videographer, researcher and writer to promote the conservation of sharks and other threatened wildlife.  Jillian and director Duncan Brake, produced a video on making Bimini Sands the first shark free marina in the Bahamas. For more information on what Jillian and Duncan do, go to www.oceanicallstars.com.

Our guest Jillian Morris filming the “work up” of a shark (click to enlarge)

Upon our arrival, we were faced with calm conditions, so without delay we set out for the day.  Before departure, Dr. Neil Hammerschlag discussed with the students the importance of the work that was being done and how it will be used towards the protection and conservation of sharks and their surrounding ecosystems.

Dr. Hammerschlag is getting the satellite tags ready for the sharks! (click to enlarge)

After the drumlines were set, while we waited for the lines to soak, the students reviewed the techniques of the workup and jobs were assigned.  Instead of the entire group being briefed by the team, the experienced students went through the procedures and equipment, while I stood aside and listened in.  The students tend to come back to the program even after graduating because of the knowledge and experience they gain, as well as the impact they feel in contributing to the conservation of sharks.

Miss Leann teaching the class of Palmer Trinity on how to properly tag and measure a shark. (click to enlarge)

When the time arrives to check the lines everyone’s energy builds. Each line is checked and rebaited if there is nothing on it. This gave us 20 chances to catch sharks.  It was not as busy as yesterday with the Nurse sharks, but we still managed to catch 3.  Two of which were 225 cm in total length (TL).  Once again, Joe Romeiro was our in water volunteer, which made the work up much easier and less stressful for the shark.

When drumlines are brought up tangled with monofilament, we all had an idea of what species would be on the end.  By the end of the trip we were excited and privileged to work up 2 mature and possibly pregnant female Blacktips of at least 150 cm TL.  After working up the sharks Jillian took the time to explain the importance of gathering their data on shark reproduction.  She expressed that finding out more about mating and birthing behavior of sharks is crucial to their survival; the areas they mate and pup need to be protected.   In reference to protection and policy she told them that, “Fishing seasons need to be regulated, so that breeding animals are not being targeted and removed from the stock. Data collected on these trips will hopefully help put legislation in place.”

Shark Team working together quickly to tag and release a blacktip shark! (click to enlarge)

Getting ready to release an excited balcktip shark

We managed to collect data from one other species today, a blacknose shark (female), who only measured to 105 cm TL.

Adam has just taken his blood sample to look at isotopes. (click to enlarge)

A very small fin clip has been taken to check for toxins within the shark. (click to enlarge)

Amongst the drumline sets we also put out and collect fish traps, in order to gather data as to what types of fish are in the area and compare their numbers with that of the sharks in the area.  This serves as great educational experience for the students to witness many species in the area.  Most of the students have been out on a boat and/or been fishing, so I used this time to test their knowledge and identification skills.   In addition to the commercially important species that we collect data and take samples from, today we gathered a spotted moray eel and a sea urchin.  The urchin is a fascinating invertebrate species for the students to hold and take a close look at; most assume it is poisonous or dangerous.

Miss Leann is showing her class a newly found sea urchin!

Everyone seemed excited that we were catching sharks, but deep down we all wanted a Hammerhead.  The day prior we had one on the line, but it got loose after dragging the drumline for almost 1 nautical mile.  So, we were all crossing our fingers and sending out the hammer vibes today, but seemed to have no luck, as we were running out of chances.  Drumlines were being brought up empty and we were packing up.  In the end it was a successful day, between the video footage, still photos, educational moments, hands-on experience, and collection of data from 6 sharks, including 3 species.

On the ride back Jillian noted, after her first experience of what the RJ Dunlap Shark Program that, “Every student on the boat left with a huge smile and a better understanding of the ocean.  It was always amazing to see the science world connecting to the average person, especially kids. Changes need to be made and younger generations will be asked to fight for the oceans. Making a connection to these animals at an early age is vital to changing perceptions. Although not every student that goes through the program may become a marine biologist they will hopefully at least think about their choices and influence their parents. South Florida has a large fishing industry as well as hundreds of seafood restaurants. These kids can be apart of smart seafood decisions and the fight to protect sharks in these waters.”  Thank you to Jillian and everyone else who participates in some way or another.  My students, as well as myself, leave the trips with a feeling of satisfaction that we are indeed doing our part and that one person can make a difference.

By: Leann Winn

(Shark Program Intern and Marine Science Teacher)

Nurse Sharks Galore! 3/13/10

March 13th, 2010

As I woke up Saturday morning at Sea Base, I found myself looking outside to gale force winds.  The trees were moving at an alarming pace and inside the bay, the seas were close to 2 feet.  Needless to say, the morning did not look so great for a shark trip.  MAST Academy was on their way down to the keys and so were the other interns, everyone trying to keep a positive outlook that the day would get better and we could leave the dock for an exciting shark adventure. As a result of our positive thinking, at 12:00 pm the captain gave us the green light, we were off to catch some sharks!  Even in the afternoon the wind was high and the seas were rough, so we all took some seasick pills and were ready to go.

MAST Academy measuring their TL..

Due to the weather, we decide to go to a site located about 2 miles offshore, so we could continue our research.  After we set the lines, we yelled “TEN DRUMLINES IN THE WATER”, and everyone was excited to eat lunch and prepare for a fantastic day of sharking.  As we waited for the lines to soak, we had a chance to chat with our VIP guest, Joe Romeiro from 333 Productions.  Founded in 2006, President Joe Romeiro and co-founder Bill Fisher have been working with marine biologists and other shark researchers around the world to bring a realistic, factual, and exciting look into the world of sharks.  333 Productions specializes in underwater video productions and is currently working with the RJ Dunlap Shark Program to film the rare and elusive Great Hammerhead shark.  They have recently produced an award winning film, “Death of a Deity” which can be viewed on their Facebook homepage, showcasing the beauty of pelagic sharks and why their numbers are in decline.

Go to: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/rhode-island-chicago/333-PRODUCTIONS/57793888166?v=info&ref=ts

Joe Romeiro from 333 Productions (click to enlarge)

After lunch, we began pulling in the lines finding a plethora of nurse sharks!  Throughout the day, we caught 10 nurse sharks, that’s a lot of twisting and turning.  Nurse sharks take a lot more time to tag and release since there skin is extremely tough and we can only use certain tags on them.  They also have a tendency to roll when caught so it takes awhile for them to settle down, but they are beautiful nonetheless!

Quick and easy way to measure a nurse shark:) Dr. Hammerschlag and Joe Romeiro

Towards the end of the day, the shark crew put our hands into fists and put them on each side of our head to form what looked like a hammerhead, this is our “hammerhead power”.  Well it worked!  Our next shark was a great hammerhead, estimated to be around 306 cm, wow that’s a big shark!  I say estimated because unfortunately the shark was able to come loose from our hook and got away and we were never able to bring it to the boat.

In between catching sharks we also put out and collect fish traps to see what types of fish are in the area in relation to how many sharks are in the area.  If we catch commercially important species like snapper or grouper, we measure, weigh, and take fin samples for later analysis.   Even though we can’t make a claim yet we have noticed that the smaller the sharks are, the less important commercial species (like pinfish) seem to be present and the larger the shark, we tend to catch more snappers and groupers.  Again this is just my opinion, so it will take a few years to actually make a correlation.

Leann and Dr. Hammerschlag weighing a yellow tail snapper

All in all, it was an amazing day.  Being apart of this program is an amazing opportunity to experience the duties of field work and what it means to be a team.  This shark team is filled with awesome people who work really hard and we always have each others back, isn’t that what a team should be?

Shark Team hard at work!


Brendal Davis (Shark Program Intern)

Shark Adventure 3/12/2010

March 12, 2010

We set out on Friday wary of how the weather was going to treat us yet still excited about the prospect of catching some amazing sharks.  A cloudy and overcast sky seemed like a small obstacle in our way to the ocean side reef.  South Broward High School had come out with us that day in high spirits, ready to take on the sharks and sea.  But as the song goes, “The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the courage of the fearless crew. The [shark catch] would be lost, the [shark catch] would be lost.”  Let’s just say that as the boat lurched, a few stomachs did too.  The fate of our trip looked gloomy as we each looked to the left and right and realized that at least 2 of the three were puking over the side of the boat (extra chum, I suppose?).  As we approached the first drumline, spirits were kind of low and the swells remained high.  We brought in the line to find a 269cm (~ 8’10”) Great Hammerhead fighting on the other end.  He was a perfect prospect for one of our satellite tags, and so we brought him on board and quickly went to work.  Dom and Curt looked like the fastest shark tagging pit crew I have ever seen, and they quickly got the shark back in the water.  In honor of those who barfed in the name of research, we decided to name the shark “Hurley”.  It was an amazing start to the day, and it was exactly what we needed to bring color back to all our green faces!

Dom and Curt tagging a Great Hammerhead (Please click to enlarge)

Hurley, the Great Hammerhead (Please click to enlarge)

The next few lines proved unsuccessful, but none of us were ready to give up our shark catching hopes and dreams.  We begin pulling up drumline 7, and before any of us see anything, Curt yells, “There’s something on the line.” (We are all convinced he has a 6th sense).  As we pull the shark closer, we find that we have a bull shark on the end.  We hoist the shark aboard and begin our routine of measuring, tagging, and sampling.  Curt points out that the shark we have caught is actually a sandbar shark, and they are often mistaken for bull sharks.  He points out that the ridge along our little guys back is one of the few distinguishing features between our shark and a bull shark.  The shark seemed offended that he was almost mistakenly identified him and proved a tough match for our team.  Let’s just say he was a well endowed, mature male with a little too much testosterone for any of our good.  After a little tug of war match with our shark, we were finally able to wiggle the pump out of his mouth and slip him back into the water with nothing more than a little shark burn along our legs.

Ashley and Brendal tagging a Sandbar Shark

Captain Curt releasing a Sanbar Shark

The last three lines were empty, but I was pretty ecstatic at how the day had turned out.  A huge hammerhead was satellite tagged, and we caught a shark I had never even seen before.  All and all, it was a great day for catching sharks and a great day to look rough seas in the eye and say, “You can take my lunch, but you’ll never take my dignity!”

South Broward High School and Shark Team!

Track our satellite tagged sharks in real time!

Go to: https://www.sharkresearch.rsmas.miami.edu/learning-tools/


Ashley Schenk (Shark Program Intern)

Shark Trip 2/21/2010 “Baby Tiger Shark”

Sunday Feb 21

By: Katie Sellers

Despite some gnarly seas, the shark team had a great day on Sunday. The skies were blue and the weather had warmed up just enough to have a comfortable day out to sea. Our crew consisted of Dr. Hammerschlag, Captain Curt Slonim, Ashely Schenk, Brendal Davis, Josh Levy, Adam Matulik and myself, Katie Sellers. Also on board we had a special guest, Mark Rackley. Mark is a professional filmographer who has done previous work for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, Animal Planet and even WildBoyz!


Mark Rackley, Ashley, Katie, Brendal, and Josh

On our first line of the day we were graced with the presence of a juvenile tiger shark! This little boy had a total length of about 120 cm. He was absolutely beautiful, showing vivid colorations that are very different from any other shark. This little guy is not only special for environmental reasons but also because he is the first juvenile tiger shark that Dr. Hammerschlag has come across in his shark studies. This was by far one of the most exciting catches the shark program has had. The information obtained from this shark will be of great importance to our studies.

Juvenile Tiger Shark

As if having a tiger shark on line was not special enough, Mark jumped into the water to video this beautiful animal. Mark took video during all stages of our process from a so called shark eye view. He filmed the shark going though our processes of measurements and sampling as well as the most important part, the release. It was a great opportunity to watch Mark do his work as well as chat with him about his past endeavors.

Following our exciting first catch of the day we went into a bit of a shark slump. Our lines would either become caught on bottom structure or pull up abandoned lobster traps. Also, much of our bait had not even been nibbled on by any creature whatsoever. This was all unfortunately a tell tale sign that we were not in the appropriate spot for fishing. No data is good data as it always relays useful information. Also, while we were pulling in our lines in search of sharks, we came upon two inflated Goliath Groupers. Unfortunately fishermen had been in the area and let these animals go in an unhealthy and very vulnerable state. When fish with air bladders are pulled to the surface quickly from deep waters, their air bladder uncontrollably inflates. When the fish are too small, fishermen throw them off of the boat, still inflated where the fish float at the surface like a balloon. We fortunately spotted them in this state and stopped to help them deflate their air bladders.

Releasing another goliath grouper, thanks Captain Curt!

On our second to last line we did catch one more shark, a nurse shark. This nurse was very large weighing approximately 300 pounds. We tied him up to the side, did our measurements, tagging him very quickly and letting him go in great conditions. All in all we had a great day out on the unpredictable waters of the Atlantic.

Shark Team

Happy Sharking,

Katie (Shark Program Intern)

Two more satellite tags deployed! 2/20/2010

Shark Blog: 2/20/2010

By: Jamison Farrell

Saturday, a stunning day with light winds from the East and temperature of 75 degrees.  The team headed up by our fearless and injured leader Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, was embarking on virgin shark tagging territory. We were heading offshore to a sandy bottom area past the reef and dropping our lines at depths of approximately 115 ft.  A task that proved to be quite a feat when it came to pulling 35lbs of concrete back into the boat, possibly and hopefully accompanied by a shark. There is no question the effort was worth it by what was accomplished in the end.

Enjoying a beautiful day out to our shark fishing spot…

When we returned to check our lines for the first round, we saw that one has been dragged a fair distance away and we all know what this means!  We quickly pull the line in, only to be faced with a feisty mature male great hammerhead.  He had NO desire to be reeled in and had no problem showing this.  Once he finally calmed down we measured him at 248 cm in length (just over 8ft).   We then deployed our first satellite tag of the day on a shark that is now named Sawyer, in honor of Captain Curt’s son.

Getting ready to put a satellite tag on Sawyer

The last line on round one would not budge and it seemed like ages to pull it up to the surface.  To our surprise, we had caught a goliath grouper.  Knowing that the grouper was a protected species, we carefully removed it from the hook (without bringing the fish onto the boat).  This guy was an absolute monster of fish.  We measured him to be 165cm (about 5.5 ft) in length and estimated his weight to be 200 pounds!  After cautiously being released unharmed from our gear he swam happily back down, likely returning to his hole on the bottom.

Releasing a Goliath Grouper

On round two, at the same location we caught Sawyer another beautiful great hammerhead!   This one was an immature male, named Dr. Hammer, and was just a touch smaller measuring in at 238 cm.  It is amazing that just 10cm in length can mean the difference in maturity level in male sharks.

Tagging a Nurse Shark

All our fish traps came up completely empty– this can likely be attributed to our distance from the reef. Furthermore, we pulled in five massive nurse sharks, two of which were able to roll into an escape before we were able to tag them.

Brendal and Dominique preparing a fish trap

The new location certainly proved to be a massive success.   Great hammerheads, nurse sharks and a goliath grouper have dedicated there short time on the surface to research.  We did not pull in a single shark under 220cm (just over 7ft) in length. The team is super stoked to have tagged two more great hammerheads with satellite tags on this epic day.  The word to describe this remarkable day: righteous.

NOTE:  You can now track our sharks, including our newest member, Dr. Hammer. See where he is going and what he has been up too!

Please go to: https://www.sharkresearch.rsmas.miami.edu/learning-tools/follow-sharks/