By Jessica Wingar, RJD Intern
Waking up on Sunday morning, I was extremely excited to be going shark tagging, since it was my first trip in a few months. I got up, checked the weather, it said less than 60 degrees. I was very surprised, doned my sweatpants and sweatshirt, and set off to Diver’s Paradise at Crandon Marina.
We arrived at Diver’s Paradise around 8am and loaded the gear onto the boat. Despite the fact that we were freezing, we were all anticipating a great day of shark tagging. The group from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy arrived around 9am. Captain Nick gave a quick safety briefing followed by an explanation of our drumline system by trip leaders Dani and Jake. We had added extension lines because we were going to go to a deeper site.
The girls and teachers were all very excited while we headed out to the site. Once we got the site, the captain made the decision that it was too choppy to shark tag there. Instead of the deep site, we went to Stiltsville instead. The team quickly took the extension lines off, and prepared the first several lines to go out.
After about another half an hour, we suddenly felt the boat start to slow and we saw the famous houses at Stiltsville. The team gathered the students near the back of the boat to demonstrate how we were going to deploy the lines. After the first line, the students were given the opportunity to deploy some lines. The students were organized into groups, which made the whole process run very smoothly.
Our first shark was a gorgeous blacktip. We swiftly brought the animal up onto the boat and did the work up. With the help of the students, the shark was back in the water within five minutes. Our next shark was a small nurse shark, which wriggled its way off of the line. We then worked up a blacknose followed by a beautiful 230cm lemon shark. This was only the second lemon shark I have ever seen. They have such distinctive teeth and I was in awe at the splendor of this animal.
After the lemon shark we were able to work up another blacktip, blacknose, and a sizeable nurse. All of the sharks were worked up quickly with the help of the students and teachers. We had a great, busy day seeing a lot of variety of shark species. Every trip that I go on is different and every trip gives me the reminder that I am so lucky to have these opportunities. I hope that the students and teachers had as great of a day as I did and are now encouraged to go out and do more conservation work.