By Casey Dresbach, SRC Intern
On the fairly windy and overcast morning of December 3rd, the SRC team and honorary audience members set sail on yet another successful venture. The SRC team and I met at Crandon Park at 8 AM, along with high school students from Hialeah High School, and a very special guest, a Canadian documentary filmmaker. As we boarded the boat, the skies began to clear up and ensured a day filled with adventure.
Catherine Macdonald, the trip leader for the day, and Jake Jerome, my fellow intern, began to speak to the students about our fishing methods and why we use such specific gear. The two briefed the students on why SRC does what we do and how each and every one of them were about to help in collecting crucial data which impacts both shark research and management. While the explanation took place, I, along with the rest of the team began to set up the gear, bait the hooks, and deploy the drums. This was repeated three times, a total of 30 deployed drums for the day. After the first set of ten, we held tight to let the bait soak in the water for about an hour. Upon waiting, I got to speak with a couple of the students and their very enthusiastic teacher. For some students, it was their first time seeing sharks, let alone being aboard a boat! Having such an avid educator on board made all the difference; the energy was wonderful and not only did the team respond, but the sharks were pretty responsive too! Our first cartilaginous friend hooked onto line four to join our educational soirée. The beautiful male Black Tip came aboard at around 170 cm, about five and a half feet long. To avoid setting up the platform in such rough seas, we landed the shark onto the boat. Little did we know that this little guy would foreshadow the rest of our catches… all to whom were in fact Black Tips! I’m honored to say I took part in such a remarkable set of catches! Teams of four students were set up and each one got to take part in the four primal procedures: nictitating the eye membrane, measuring the shark, taking a fin clip sample, and of course, tagging the shark.
The rest of the day seemed to go by fairly quick; five more sharks were caught throughout the next several hours. We landed a male Black Tip at 157 centimeters (a little over five feet), followed by a male Black Tip at 159 centimeters (a little over five feet), yet another male at 170 centimeters (about five and a half feet), and two female: one with a total length of 170 cm and another at 173 centimeters (almost 6 feet!). The team aided the participants in their tasks, snapped photos of each to get accurate measurements to scale, and drew blood from each shark, which that was taken to the back of the boat and examined by my fellow intern, Stephen Cain. Eager students head back to join him and soak in his masterly shark blood handling. Catch after catch I was able to see the spark in each and every one of the students. In being apart of such an incredible Shark Research Program, I have learned to appreciate the most satisfying recognition: inspiring high school students to take in new knowledge.
Overall, we had an extraordinary day on the sea with Hialeah High School and the Canadian documentary team, in spite of the choppy waters. After catching a record six Black Tips, I can only presume that everyone on board left feeling satisfied and content with the day. The SRC team was able to gain valuable data from our catches and workups. The trip was made best because of the enthusiasm instilled in all of the students, thank you for your hard work and energy! We only hope you continue to instill your passion in the future; it truly is remarkable. Hope to you again soon!