Shark tagging with the American Heritage school

by Becca Shelton, RJD Intern


I was really excited for the RJD shark trip with American Heritage for three reasons. First, this was my last trip of the year with the RJD crew and Captain Curt. While it was a sad thought, the anticipation of the trip was more exhilarating because it was going to be my last trip for over a month and my expectations were high. Second, we went sampling at Hawk’s Channel where we had caught an adult Tiger shark two weeks in a row! Not only that, but the week before in the same area, we also caught a total of 9 sharks of varying species! And last but not least, I was going to spend the day in the Keys, shark tagging with some of my favorite people and the weather was perfect. It was shaping up to be a great last day on the water.

After casting off, we began with our routine of everyone introducing themselves and explaining the science and importance behind the trip. The high school students from American Heritage were enthusiastic and ready to help. A few even did some cheers on the deck for good luck! We set out our first 10 drumlines and waited with anticipation to see what we would catch.

The students first participated by helping put out and reel in drumlines. It was a little bit rocky at first but that did not slow them down or damper their fun! After lunch and 20 drum lines, we were starting to wonder if we were going to catch a shark!? We tried switching the color of our yoyos for good luck and checked to make sure no one brought a banana on the boat. These are superstitions but you’d be surprised how a simple yoyo color change to “yum yum yellow” can change your luck. We decided to take a break and go for a swim. The water was beautiful shades of blue and teal and everyone had a great time floating around. 15 minutes later, it was time to pull in our last set of drumlines.

After pulling in a few lines, we FINALLY caught a blacknose shark! This species is smaller than some of the other sharks we generally catch, but everyone was excited none the less. Students took various samples and tagged the shark in case it was ever recaptured. The blacknose was released in great condition and swam off away from the boat.

A student inserts an ID tag into the dorsal fin of a blacknose shark.

We pulled in the rest of the lines and headed back to Islamorada. Even though we were only able to sample one shark, everyone had a great time and enjoyed spending the day participating in our research. American Heritage was a great group and I hope I get the chance to go out on the water with them again in the future!

The American Heritage group posing with the “shark” signal

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