by Heather Alberro, RJD intern
On the calm, grey, and breezy morning of Saturday, March 29th, the RJD team and I headed out for a day of shark tagging with the University of Miami’s Marine and Atmospheric Science Honor Society, Rho Rho Rho. We loaded the Diver’s Paradise with the necessary gear for the day and awaited captain Eric’s signal before departing. The Rho Rho Rho group was most enthusiastic and eager to get started, thrilled by the day’s prospects. We reminded them that even catching a single shark would be a stroke of luck, as a significant number of these predators are in decline. Despite the chances of high winds and scattered showers, once we were all set, we headed out for our destination: Safety Valve, located about half an hour away from Biscayne.
Our first few deployments were unsuccessful, as many of our hooks came up missing both a shark and the bait we had set out. Finally, towards our second set of deployments, we felt tension as we pulled up one of the lines. As we reeled in the line, a very large and healthy female nurse shark emerged out of the depths putting up quite a fight. After three RJD team members successfully secured the shark, The Rho Rho Rho group was ready to assist in the usual workup, assembling into teams, each with their own task. After a successful workup session and a quick photo session with the Rho Rho Rho members and the shark, it was released in prime condition, and we watched as it disappeared into the sea. Shortly afterwards we caught another nurse shark, to our delight, a recapture, which is a very rare occurrence. This one, a male, was slightly smaller than the previous one, yet no less lively. We safely secured the shark, gathered our data with the help of the Rho Rho Rho team, and promptly released him in great condition. Having already been lucky enough to catch two large and healthy sharks, we caught two more: two lemon sharks. Compared with the incredible strength of the nurse sharks, the lemon sharks were far easier to secure, and were thus a welcome break from the force and strength needed to secure the two nurse sharks. The two lemon sharks were also in great condition, both displaying the characteristic yellowish hue that gives them their name. We performed the usual workup and once again, before releasing each one, allowed each Rho Rho Rho member to pose for a quick picture with the sharks, as these are not as commonly caught as the nurses.
After successfully catching and tagging four sharks, two nurses and two lemons, the day began to draw to a close. We picked up all remaining deployed lines and headed back to Biscayne Bay. Tired after a hard day’s work, some of us sat down, relaxed, and enjoyed the ride back, while others took in sights of nearby boats and sea birds flying overhead. The trip went smoothly on all accounts; even the weather remained pleasant all throughout the day with overcast skies, a cool breeze, and smooth seas. Tagging with Rho Rho Rho was a pleasure, as the group remained enthusiastic and engaged throughout the entirety of the trip. Once we docked and took some of the gear to shed beneath the Diver’s Paradise office building, we said goodbye and parted ways, some of us only momentarily, as another tagging trip was scheduled for the following day.