By Lindsay Jennings, RJD Intern
On Friday, May 2nd, RJD once again set out for a day of shark tagging, this time with the school group, Oak Ridge High. We headed out from the Miami Seaquarium and motored out to our first site, north of Soldier Key, in Biscayne National Park. Once all of the drumlines were baited and ready to go, the students eagerly volunteered to help deploy the first ten lines. While waiting for the first set of lines to soak, we were able to go for a quick swim and snorkel, which was most refreshing since it was beginning to turn into another hot Miami day. When it was time to starting pulling the hooks, the students from Oakland High all helped reel in and reset the lines. As the first three sets didn’t yield any sharks, we had to remind our guests that not catching any sharks is still important for our data collection.
Despite this setback and just when we thought we weren’t going to catch anything, on our fourth set we reeled in a female bull shark with a total length of 194 centimeters. Interestingly enough, she only had one eye, but still managed to be healthy and strong. Once secured on the platform, our usual workup was conducted with all of the students ready and willing to help at their various tasks such as taking measurements of the shark’s body length and tagging the dorsal fin for future identification. After all of our data was collected and everyone onboard was able to get a good look at the bull shark, the RJD team quickly and safely released her as she swam off in the distance.
After pulling in a few more lines without any luck, to our surprise, we found ourselves hauling in a fairly large and strong barracuda! As barracuda are one of the main species of bait RJD uses in its research, we decided to keep it for future shark-tagging trips. We proceeded to pick up what lines were left in the water and gathered all our gear back on the boat. It was a sunny and successful day with the Oakland High students and RJD interns both excited and enthusiastic to help out where needed.
Once the boat was docked back in its slip, we took our customary group photo and said goodbye to our student helpers for the day. All in all, it was a successful day as RJD obtained more data for its ongoing research projects and the students from Oakland High were able to become shark researchers for the day! We look forward to seeing them again!