28 June, 2010
At first rise it seemed as though we would be in for some rain; however, we checked the weather report and realized it would all blow over. With this knowledge we set out with all gear to meet up with a new batch of high school students from the South Florida Urban Ministries (SFLUM) program. They are a dynamic non-profit organization that empowers people to move from poverty to prosperity through holistic youth development, small business development and hunger relief ministries in South Florida. We had the pleasure of taking 8 students and 2 chaperon’s with us this time. We went through a quick briefing, signed everyone in, and got everyone excited for the day to come. Then we went through the checklist and made sure all the gear was accounted for, gathered up the bait, called in the permits, and were on our way.
We set out once again from Keys Marine Lab and headed to our site out of Florida Bay a few miles from the Long Key Bridge. The students were all strapped up with life jackets, as some of them had never been out on the water or on a boat, let alone, knew how to swim or even tag sharks!! Today was a real treat for them, and although they had no clue what the day would bring, they seemed more enthusiastic rather than apprehensive, which was awesome! Upon arrival at our site, we began setting out the drumlines and explaining the gear and procedures. It seemed to take no time for the students to catch on and before we knew it they were readily volunteering to perform tasks and get involved. Once we set out all 10 drumlines, 3 fish traps, the camera, and took water/air quality data it was time for lunch, even though it was still 10 in the morning. We needed to make sure we ate in preparation for the day to come because once we got going there really were no more breaks. Time becomes crucial for both the consistency of the data and the safety of the marine life. During soak time, sandwiches were passed out and we went over gear. Without a shark it is hard to picture everything, so we used hand puppets for visual effects, which got some laughs out of the kids and kept their attention.
On our way back to check our first line, all the students volunteered and were assigned a job. We pulled up the first few and had no luck, but we placed up our shark signs, sent out good vibes, and finally caught a shark. It was a 121cm (TL) female blacknose. The blacknose shark was an experience for the students. Some people only imagine sharks as these huge scary creatures because they are unaware that they vary in size, depending on the species, and neglect to remember that all mature animals grow from small juveniles.
On the very next line there was a Nurse shark. It was a 220 cm (TL) male. Since it was a Nurse shark, we left it in the water and secured it to the side of the boat because of its behavior and size. We only measured total length, took a fin clip, and inserted a spaghetti tag. Afterward the students were able to see and feel the shark. Some students were timid only touching the sharks with a finger or two, but gained confidence throughout the day working up to using their entire hand to gain full perspective of what a shark feels like.
On the next drumline there was a 220cm (TL) female Lemon shark. While we secured the shark on the boat and placed the pump into its mouth the students were ready with the gear. By this time the students seemed to have the procedure down pat and were ready for experiencing a mature size shark.
As we continued the day, the students were always ready and anxiously hoping for another shark with duties in mind as we pulled up drumline after drumline. Throughout the day everyone engaged by asking questions: learning not only about sharks, but many conservation issues surrounding the ocean. Later in the day we caught 2 more male Nurse sharks, both being over 200cm, the largest measuring an estimated total length of 241cm.
In total we were able to catch, collect samples from, tag, and record 5 sharks. When it was time for the fish traps to come up, the students were ready to catch and count fish. We set these traps out to see the species diversity as well as abundance. Today we caught some pinfish, and 1 mutton snapper.
I hope that everyone was able to take away some interesting facts to share with others and were able to learn something they had never known before. On behalf of the Shark team that day, I would like to thank the SFLUM group. It was a pleasure to have a group with so much enthusiasm and desire to participate and be engaged. We hope you all had a great experience and enjoyed the day as well.
Leann Winn (Senior Shark Intern)