By Jacob Jerome, RJD Graduate Student and Intern
It’s never hard to get up early knowing that I’m going out on the water with the amazing RJD crew, and Saturday morning was no exception. Driving over to Key Biscayne I was excited to board the Diver’s Paradise and get the gear loaded for the trip so we could get out on the water. After loading the gear and checking out the new floating platform, we headed over to the Seaquarium to meet Dr. Neil and pick up our guests for the day, the UM President’s Council.
After meeting the diverse and fun group of members of the President’s Council and their guest, Dr. Neil gave the group a rundown of some of the projects that the RJD team is working on along with an overview of the gear that we would be using for the day. Everyone seemed very excited to have the opportunity to participate in our research! Shortly after the briefing, we left the dock and enjoyed the beautiful ride over to our sampling site for the day in Biscayne Bay.
Once at the site, we set out our first ten drumlines with the help of our very enthusiastic group. During our hour soak time, Dr. Neil showed the group, with the help of our mascot Sharkie, what data we would be collecting if we were lucky enough to catch any sharks. You could see that everyone was getting more excited about the possibilities of the day. Captain Eric got us in position to check our first drumline and to our surprise we had a shark!
As the drumline was pulled in, Captain Eric informed us that we had a hammerhead on the line. This news changed everything. We worked to get the shark to the platform as quickly as possible because we have learned from our research that hammerheads are very sensitive to capture. Unfortunately, the shark got off the line just as we were getting it to the platform. Though we weren’t able to collect any data from this amazing animal, everyone on the boat got to see this rare species up close and watch it swim gracefully away.
As we moved on to our next drumline, we were again pleasantly surprised to find a shark on the line! This time we were able to successfully get a big nurse shark secured on the platform for a quick workup and then release it back into the water.
With spirits high, we pulled in the remainder of the lines from the first set. Another shark managed to escape us as we were pulling it in, this time a large nurse shark. After a delicious lunch provided by SALT Restaurant, we began pulling in the second round of drumlines with the help of our guests. We discovered two more feisty nurse sharks during this set and were able to successfully collect measurements, fin clips, and blood samples for our ongoing research. On our third and final set of lines, we were getting skunked by the sharks and began thinking that we were done seeing them for the day. But on our very last line, we were able to pull in another big nurse shark!
Our adventure was a great success — we were able to land 4 nurse sharks all over 7 feet long! To make the day even more successful, one of the nurse sharks was a recapture, meaning it already had an RJD tag in it. Because of this, the data we were able to collect was even more meaningful due to the additional information a recapture provides for our research. Research data obtained, a great group of enthusiastic guests, a gorgeous day, priceless! As always, I can’t wait for my next shark tagging trip with RJD.