Shark Tagging with Big Brothers Big Sisters

By Beau Marsh, RJD Intern

The day of March 28 proved another successful shark tagging trip.  RJD had the pleasure of spending the day on the water with the Big Brothers Big Sisters group.  The crew was especially excited because past trips with BBBS had all been a treat, and, of course, today was no different.  At the Diver’s Paradise dock, we were met with a very friendly and excited group of people.  Although, it was surprisingly chilly (by Miami’s standards), we were all aching to get out on the water, jackets and all.  We departed from Diver’s Paradise and did not have to travel far.  The team decided to stay inside the bay, in clear view of Bill Baggs State Park.

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Once we arrived at our first location, we began deploying our first set of 10 drum lines.  Everything went smoothly as we had the assistance of our trusty friends from BBBS.  As an added treat, the sun decided to reveal itself, and it became another warm day in beautiful Miami.  The only thing left was to see some sharks.  Everyone on the boat went through the usual ritual of predicting what kind of sharks we would see and how many.  Once the time came to retrieve our lines, we were immediately met with a pleasant surprise.  We had a large nurse shark on our very first line.  This was a promising start to a very successful day.  Unfortunately, our first nurse managed to sneak off the line right before pulling it on the boat.  It may have gotten away, but it gave us hope for the rest of the day.  Sure enough, our tricky nurse proved a good omen because we went on to catch a total of six additional nurse sharks that day.  We also managed to catch three beautiful black tip reef sharks, giving us a grand total of 10 shark sightings in one day!  Each of the nine caught sharks was successfully worked up and released very quickly and in good health.  There is no feeling like collecting data from nine sharks and watching each one swim safely back into the water.  This success could not have been accomplished without the help and efficiency off our BBBS guests.  They were organized and ready to go at all times.

The day could not have gone much better, especially considering one unexpected surprise.  One of the nurse sharks we caught already had a tag in it!  This was not an RJD tag, so we caught a shark that had been tagged before by a different team.  We were very happy to see this because it presented us with an opportunity to reach out to another research team and collaborate our data.  It is a rare opportunity to be able to obtain such information from a single shark at two different times.  It is always a treat when we get to see the hard work of tagging pay off.

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Of course, we would like to take one final opportunity to thank the Big Brothers Big Sisters group.  Everyone on RJD was impressed with the enthusiasm and eagerness of the group to get involved.  We could not have asked for a more friendly and engaging group to help us carry out our research.  We hope you had as much fun as we did, and hopefully we helped to spark an even greater appreciation for sharks.