Nurse City

[Friday October 8, 2010]

Though the sun was shining and the winds were light, our guest school decided not to show up for the trip today. Putting this slight setback aside and deciding to take advantage of the weather and our fully loaded boat, the shark crew (Ashley Schenk, Austin Gallagher, Dominique Lazarre, Laura Rock, and I) headed out to the reef to see what catch the clear waters would bring.

As the first trip back, for the official school year of 2010-2011, the private boat trip enabled the crew to have a nice time catching up with one another. Also, it acted as a good refresher for those whom had not been out on trips that had occurred over the summer months. A few alterations had been made to our methodologies providing for a good learning experience for all involved. On our ride out to the fishing site, Dominique held an impromptu knot tying class where we all learned how to effectively tie a bowline knot. This would be applied to larger buoys that are attached to our drumlines. Timers are now attached to the base of drumlines allowing us to accurately know just how long a shark has been hooked. The timer is triggered by the force a shark exerts when it becomes hooked onto our rigs. The pull from the shark on the rig pops a plug-like trigger on the end on the timer, starting the clock. Finally, a nictitating membrane test has been added to our list of duties when dealing with a shark. This test is conducted by squirting a bit of water on a shark’s eye to see if the membrane flickers or not. This helps to analyze how stressed the animal is.

Once on site, we noticed a commercial crab/lobster boat setting a string of traps within the vicinity of our drumlines. Unfortunately, this may have been a factor in the amount of catch we had for the day.

Commercial boat. Click to enlarge.

Out of twenty drumlines, we caught a total of five sharks. Four of these were nurse sharks and our last catch of the day was a small blacknose shark. The nurse sharks are always interesting to deal with. These animals have a tendency to roll a lot when being handled making measuring and tagging very difficult. We had two larger nurse sharks within the 6-7ft range and two medium sized ones within the 5 ft range. When the largest of the nurse sharks was along the side of the boat, she deemed to be quite the struggle. While taking her lengths she decided to go into a rolling sequence entangling herself in our measuring tape. Also, as she was rolling her tail flung up and slapped me in the face. This action definitely provided some good humor for the situation despite my sore cheek.

Rambunctious nurse shark. Click to enlarge.

On the other hand, the blacknose was quite the pleasure to work with and was about 3 ½ ft in length. His small nature was defiantly reinforced when dealing with the water pump. His mouth was almost too small to open up and over a pump that many other sharks seem to inhale. Notice in the picture below how the shark has to bite the side of the pump where the holes are in order to allow the water intake, instead of inserting the pump directly into its mouth.

Small blacknose shark. Click to enlarge.

Though the sharks may have chosen to ignore us, a hermit crab decided to say hello. After hauling in a heavy drumline, Ashley was surprised to see a monstrous hermit crab sitting on the end of her line. This newfound creature helped create a lightened atmosphere as we motored home to the dock.

Ashley and her monstrous hermit crab. Click to enlarge.

Happy Sharking!

Katie Sellers

1 reply
  1. Gerardo Palacios
    Gerardo Palacios says:

    Nice to meet you Katie:

    I am Gerardo Palacios, marine biologist and right now I am working with reproductive behavior of nurse shark in middle pacific of costa rica. I want to improve my research, I am researching nurse shark since 2007, and I have the opportunity to develop my studies in this shark. Right now I am looking for a professor that would help me with this porpuse. Do you know some body in University of Miami or other university close to there, that can help me with this topyc? maybe you?. I will be traveling to Miami at December 11th – 19th and It will be very hepfull if I would found an expert of sexual behavior of nurse shark.
    I will appreciate a lot all your help.
    Best regards,
    Gerardo Palacios

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