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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
Brendal Davis (Shark Program Intern)