Friday, April 29th 2011
The shark team took to the seas again today, this time accompanied by a very excited group from the Island Christian School. Our sights were set on “The Reef”, the deepest location that we sample. On our ride out to the site, we took the time to brief the group on sharks both in general and the ones found in Florida’s waters. Afterwards the interns attached the 100ft extensions to the drumlines to accommodate the 140ft+ depth found at the reef site. At long last we made it to the site and baited the already prepped lines. Kissing a few of the baits for good luck, we found ourselves breaking for lunch before we knew it.
After giving a thorough lesson on how to handle, measure, sample, and tag sharks on the boat, the group started hauling in the lines. The interns were pleased to have a group so willing to offer to pull in the lines and didn’t complain when they jumped on every opportunity to do so.
Within the first set, we had a big one on the line and as it came into view, it was clear that it was a nurse shark. Nurse sharks are notorious for staying on the sea floor with the bait until we pull in the line and often don’t pull the hook timer or even realize they are hooked until we start raveling the line. As a result, unlike other shark species, they have not used up their energy by the time we get to them and therefore put up an impressive fight by pulling, pitching, thrashing, and rolling. The experienced team of interns however made quick work of this 2.3 m nurse and brought her aboard and under control. Everyone on board moved quickly and effectively as we had planned and the shark was safely back in the water in no time.
With thirty drumlines back out of the water, the day brought us 3 nurse sharks and a feisty sandbar shark; as well as noticeable sunburn for me. It was another successful day out on the water for the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program: 4 more sharks to add to the database, a more realistic awareness and appreciation of sharks for our guests, and great memories to take home. I’m signing out for the summer so until next time, keep fighting the good fight and spread awareness!
RJ Dunlap Intern