Shark Tagging with Riviera High

By Rachel Skubel, RJD Intern

Last Sunday we had a fin-tastic trip with Riviera High, wherein we were fortunate enough to come across three unique species of sharks just a couple miles off of South Miami Beach – including a breathtaking 4-meter great hammerhead. This was our first secondary-school trip of fall 2015, and we were excited to get the students involved!


When we set off in the morning, conditions were perfect for fishing offshore in deeper waters. The water was relatively calm, and the current not too strong. This meant we were able to head ‘offshore’ into deeper waters – around 80-100 ft.

Riviera High were fantastic participants today, eager to jump in and help us to deploy the first series of ten drumlines.


During the 1-hour soak-time, we explained how we work up the sharks we manage to catch. The students are able to help us out with gathering a lot of this valuable data that goes toward the >10 projects our lab is working on. The students also helped us measure environmental data, namely temperature, dissolved oxygen, and salinity, which can help us study sharks’ preferred environments, and how their physiology might be affected by changing temperatures, for example.


The first 10 lines, and the next set after that, proved to be lamentably lacking in sharks. One can never lose hope, however, and we were treated to a beautiful sandbar shark on the very first drumline of set #3! These sharks are lovely intelligent animals, and always exciting to encounter and work with. The students helped us to take measurements and tag the shark before we released the animal back into the ocean.

4_Sandbar 5_Sandbar

As part of our workup, a stress-test is performed just before releasing the shark by spraying seawater into it’s eye to look for a ‘nictitating’ response – basically a protective eyelid that comes up, and lets us know that the sharks reflexes are operational:


Not long after this sandbar shark’s departure, the veritable highlight of the day arrived. After a tellingly tough-to-pull line, we were all amazed to see an amazing, massive great hammerhead shark at the surface. Our talented team secured the shark off the edge of the platform, and we were able to take measurements from this staggering individual.7_HammerSurface

We estimated the length at 13 feet, or 4 meters, and as you can see, this individual had excellent condition (basically, fatter shark = better condition), so this was very encouraging to see! Even though great hammerheads are listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), not much is known about why they go where they do, and how fishers can best avoid interacting with them, so the more we can learn the more we can learn to progress their protection.


Luckily for us, there was more to come in the shape of a very impressive nurse shark – this animal took a crack team of RJD team members to secure for the work up. This species is really quite effective at conserving energy by remaining rather placid until we take it on board for the work up. The nurse shark practices ‘bucchal pumping’ which means it can pump water over its gills without needing to move forward (like ‘ram ventilating’ shark species) – which also means we don’t need to put a pump its mouth while we measure, tag, and take samples.


At the end of this back-loaded day we were thrilled by the sharks we encountered, and very excited to have captured data from these magnificent animals. As the fall season progresses, it will be great to work with more fantastic groups, and learn more about the sharks in our area!

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Gulliver Field Studies in Marine Science Students have Amazing Day Shark Tagging with the University of Miami

By Frank Gissoni

On June 19th 2015, we were greeted at the Diver’s Paradise boat at Crandon Marina by Captain Eric and the University of Miami’s RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation team. Cap and the team went over some basic rules and procedures with us. Our special guest, fishing celebrity Peter Miller, host of the TV show Bass to Billfish and proud Gulliver parent arrived at the dock with a large fresh Amberjack that he caught for our trip while filming an episode the day before.  The RJ Dunlap Team briefed the students and the rest of our group. Our team included Luis Ceballos, whose daughter was in the class, and Miller Drive Registrar Miriam Vizoso.  Our tasks would include; buoy and bait deployment, measuring the animals, taking a fin clip for future DNA analysis, and tagging the animals. We were also charged with testing the reaction of the shark’s nictitating membrane (eyelid) to determine whether the animal is under any stress during the procedure!  If any shark displayed any stress during the tagging and data collection process the team released the animal immediately.  The safety of the team and of the sharks was paramount and all information the RJ team convey was intensely absorbed by the students.  Before we knew it the engines roared and we were off.

Cruising along at idle speed through the Manatee Zone just outside of the marina, our optimism was palpable.  After all, we all had reasons to be optimistic, there were clear blue skies, light wind, calm seas and we were armed with the freshest bait anyone could ask for.  As we headed north past Government Cut, signs of life were everywhere.  Birds hovered over schools of bait, flying fish took to the air as we passed, and even a free jumping sailfish playfully danced for us in an amazing acrobatic display. Finally we had arrived at the location. We were about 3 miles (4.8KM) offshore in about 150 feet (45M) of water, when we began setting our lines. We were using a drum line setup. First the baited hook and line went in followed by a 35 pound weight and lastly the buoy.  The students stepped up one by one to deploy the lines, after all why not get the youngest and strongest involved first.  We placed our lines one by one, a line of golden Sargassum Seaweed guided our path like our own yellow brick road.  As the team was deploying buoy number nine the Cap called down from the flybridge.  We had a shark already on the number eight buoy.  The tone was set for the day.  There indeed was a shark, a beautiful female sandbar shark golden brown in color and about 7 feet long.  Everyone got to work. The students and the UM team worked with the speed and efficiency of a Nascar pit crew, measuring, recording data, taking samples and finally implanting a spaghetti tag.  In just a few moments the shark was safely off on her way.  The specialized circle hook, designed to catch in the jaw of the shark, did its job as usual and the shark with a powerful sweep of her tail splashed the team at the boat’s stern as she swam off.  We barely had time to high five and celebrate when the Cap yelled down again, “buoy number six!”  Off we went.  This time it was a large bull shark, a powerful stubby nosed dark grey boy 7.5 feet (2.3 m) long.  This was what we were looking for, a perfect candidate for a sonic tag.  This time only the RJD team worked on the shark.  The tag about the size of a thumb drive was implanted in the shark’s abdominal cavity, and after a few stitches he was on his way.  This shark was going to be the first specimen of a new research project studying the movement of local populations of bull sharks.  We told the RJD team we would be interested in adopting this shark through their adoption program and naming him Gulliver, so we could all watch Gullivers’ travels.

The learning opportunities and cross curricular ties would be enriching for Gulliver Schools.  Our day continued at the same frantic pace it began with. Shark after shark was brought onto the boat, another male bull shark, and six more female sandbar sharks all about the same size were caught.   Each of these sharks displayed tooth rakes on their heads and sides, the tell-tale signs of mating.  These bite marks are the result of sort of a shark embrace and the female is anatomically prepared for this with her extra thick skin. What a day!  Muscles were sore, skin was sunburned, gallons of water had been consumed, eight sharks tagged and safely released. The day could get no better, then it did. As we began retrieving the last of the setups, one had a heavy shark on the line.  As we got the shark closer we could believe our eyes.  It was a very large great hammerhead shark.  The whole boat exploded into action.  Hammerhead Sharks are particularly sensitive to stress so this shark had to be tagged quickly. Members of the RJD team grabbed hold of the sharks’ body after a safety lasso was secured and the Gulliver team grabbed on to the RJD Team to keep them from going overboard.  One member of the RJD team got in the water with his GO Pro and recorded the event.  It was controlled mayhem.  This shark was to be satellite tagged.  The tag was quickly affixed to the dorsal fin of the shark and measurements were taken.  The Cap yelled down from the bridge, “My boat is 13 feet across the stern.”  We could all see the shark was longer!  “Ninety three centimeters across her head from eye to eye” someone yelled out.  “Over three feet wide, and her dorsal fin is almost as tall!”  We were all amazed!  After a few minutes she was ready to go.  Pat from the RJD Team was already in the water. He swam her off and gave her a little push, she faded from our view into the cobalt blue water and our experience with the great ocean predator was over.  We had accomplished our mission.  On the way back to the dock we reflected on our day.  Eleventh grader Niles Miller called the day “Epic!” Miriam Vizoso claimed, “What an amazing day for the students!” Jasmin Thernhurr said, “This was a once in a lifetime experience.”  Freshman Paula Ceballos gushed, “Best field trip ever Mr. Gisonni.”  I could not have agreed more.


Shark Tagging with MAST

By Daniela Ferraro, RJD Intern

On Saturday, December 6th, RJD embarked on a shark-tagging trip with a wonderful group of students from MAST Academy. Right before finals, this trip couldn’t have come any sooner. I woke up early to absolutely beautiful weather and knew the day was going to be a great one. I grabbed my gear and headed off on Dani’s taxi service, picking up several other interns on our way to Diver’s Paradise. We arrived around 8am and quickly went to work loading up all of our equipment and gear so we could get out on the water!

 A participant conducts a reflex test of a shark’s nictitating membrane, or ‘eyelid,’ which is a measure of stress levels.

A participant conducts a reflex test of a shark’s nictitating membrane, or ‘eyelid,’ which is a measure of stress levels.

We headed out from Crandon Marina and headed towards Stiltsville Channel. With higher wind activity than normal, we decided not to add extensions onto our lines. After a safety talk with trip leader Austin and Captain Eric, we were on our way. As the rest of the interns got busy setting up our drumlines, Gabi and Beau gave a quick overview of all of the workup we give each shark: nictitating membrane test, measurement, fin clip, and tagging. With the help of the students from MAST, and our additional guests, we set out the first ten drumlines to soak for an hour.

Hannah and Gabi assist a participant in taking measurement data of a shark.

Hannah and Gabi assist a participant in taking measurement data of a shark.

Our day began with a bang and we pulled up a 158 cm female blacktip on our very first line! The group did a great job helping us take measurements and tissue samples and placing a tag in the shark’s dorsal fins for future identification. For some of the group, this was their first time seeing a shark and the RJD team was just as excited to share this with them. With spirits high, we had a lot of help pulling in the lines on our first set. Most of our bait came back with a few bites out of them, if they came back at all! In the middle of our second set of lines, we managed to pull in a beautiful male lemon shark, measuring in at a total of 224 cm. Towards the end of the day, our group kept up their enthusiasm and it paid off: on our second to last line, we pulled in another female blacktip! Hannah and I held down the shark while our team did a quick workup and she was released in excellent condition.

Our whole group after a successful shark day!

Our whole group after a successful shark day!

The group was essential in helping us do our work ups on the sharks, and each shark team was prepped and enthusiastically ready to go just in case we caught a shark. With the help of Beau and new intern Emma, we also managed to take morphology measurements on all three sharks. Gabi and Austin also got blood from both blacktips and the lemon shark. This data will be used in several projects going on in the lab. Overall, we had a fantastic day on the water and the RJD team looks forward to going shark tagging with MAST Academy again!



Shark Tagging with Gulliver Prep

By Alison Enchelmaier, RJD Intern

This trip couldn’t have come sooner. I’d been in my office for far too long and a tagging trip was long over due. Before the sun began to rise Sam and I piled into the car and headed to West Palm Beach. We met the rest of the team at Jim Abernathy’s Scuba Adventures at 7:30am and began loading up gear. With only 4 team members, I knew today would be a busy one. When our guests, Gulliver Preparatory’s Oceanography Club, arrived Dr. Neil gave everyone a briefing about shark conservation and the importance of our research before heading out.

As we left the harbor the waves began to grow higher and higher, until we were in 5ft high seas. It was difficult to safely move around the boat, much less tag, so the captain suggested we set lines closer to the harbor. To a resounding yes, we headed to the intercostal area, a location we had never tagged in before. The ocean flattened out to minimal waves as we reached our location and set our lines.

After we demonstrated how to set the lines, the Gulliver Prep students enthusiastically helped set the first 10 lines of the day. We headed back in to pick up a guest photographer and Dr. Neil demonstrated how to work up a shark and the research behind each sample. After letting the lines soak for an hour, we headed back out to pull in lines. As the first line was pulled in, no one expected anything to be on it since we rarely catch a shark on the first line. To our surprise the line was taut and a 216cm (~7ft) male nurse shark came to the surface! The deck was a flurry of activity as we brought the shark on to the boat, everyone excitedly chattering about such a lucky find. We worked up the shark in a few minutes and released it back into the water in good condition.

Nurse shark being worked up Caption: Gulliver Prep student helping the RJD team work up a nurse shark.

Nurse shark being worked up Caption: Gulliver Prep student helping the RJD team work up a nurse shark.

The first shark put us in high spirits, and we continued to pull in lines. On the 9th line we caught another male nurse shark, this one smaller at 186cm (~6 ft). After working up the second shark we continued to pull up lines, but didn’t see anything until the 18th line. As the line was pulled in, Jake said that something was on the line but it didn’t feel big enough to be a shark. As it reached the surface we got our answer: a gafftopsail catfish! The hook was quickly removed and the catfish was returned to the water, but not before getting slime on everything it touched!

 An unexpected catch

An unexpected catch

In total we caught two male nurse sharks. We rarely find so many male nurse sharks in one trip! Hopefully the data we collected can help us figure out why they were there. Over all it was great day out on the water. I hope the Oceanography Club From Gulliver Prep had as much fun as we did!

Thanks for a great day on the water Gulliver Prep!

Thanks for a great day on the water Gulliver Prep!


Shark Tagging with SLAM Academy

By Hannah Calich, RJD Graduate Student

Last Friday was a great day of shark tagging. Not only did the RJD team get to spend the day with the fabulous students and teachers from SLAM academy, but the day was documented by a CBS film crew!

A great day with great people.

A great day with great people.

The RJD team met at Crandon Marina at 8 am to begin loading up “Divers Paradise”.  It was beautiful out and we knew it was going to be a great day. Once SLAM and the CBS crew showed up, the RJD team introduced themselves and Dr. Neil gave everyone a briefing. Since it was such a gorgeous day and the water was quite calm we decided to head offshore to a deep reef.

Once we got to the site we quickly set 10 drumlines, took some environmental data, and had some lunch while we let the lines soak. After the hour-long soak we began checking our lines. When we got to line 3 we felt a familiar tug on the line and the team got ready for action. As we pulled in the line we determined we had caught a feisty female nurse shark that was approximately 250 cm long! Unfortunately, as we brought her in she managed to slip the hook and swim away. While it’s always a bit disappointing when a shark slips the hook it was great to see such a strong and healthy animal.

A kiss for good luck!

A kiss for good luck!

We continued checking and rebaiting the lines but the next 14 lines came up empty. However, something was eating our bait and we knew it was only a matter of time until we caught another shark. By line 18 the action picked up again when we caught another 251 cm long female nurse shark. The RJD team secured her while the students went to work collecting data. Within a few minutes her workup was complete and she was on her way again. Lines 20 and 22 also came with their own ~250 cm female nurse sharks! Each time a new shark was caught a different group of students came to the platform to help the RJD team collect data.

In the end it was a very interesting day because all 4 of the sharks we caught were ~250 cm long female nurse sharks. Hopefully the data we collected can help us determine what they were all doing there. Thanks again SLAM, it is always a pleasure to go out with you guys. I can’t wait until the next trip!

Figure 3



Shark Tagging with Big Brothers Big Sisters

By Jessica Wingar, RJD Intern

When I woke up on Saturday morning, I was incredibly excited to be going shark tagging. I had been looking forward to this trip all week, and I saw that the weather was going to be perfect. It was going to be sunny and high 70s to 80s all day. I grabbed all of my gear and headed to Diver’s Paradise at Crandon Marina.

The RJ Dunlap team arrived at Diver’s Paradise around 8am to load the rest of the gear onto the boat. We were all ready for a great day of tagging with a great group. The group from Big Brothers Big Sisters arrived soon after and they were all very excited to be going shark tagging with us today. We added extension lines, since the weather was good enough to go to a deeper site. Captain Eric gave a safety briefing followed by Dani, who gave an explanation of our drumline system.

We were all filled with anticipation going out the site, which was just off of Miami Beach. The group came to the back of the boat to see how we deploy the lines. Then they helped us deploy the rest of the first set of ten lines. Everyone was very enthusiastic and so helpful. The first ten lines went out smoothly. We then let the lines soak for an hour.


Deploying the lines.

Deploying the lines.

Our first shark was a large nurse shark. I think it may have been the biggest nurse shark I have ever seen. We quickly brought the large animal up onto the platform and did the work up. Everyone got a chance to touch the shark, which has very different skin than most sharks. Our next shark was a sandbar, which was extremely active on the platform. We did the workup in less than five minutes and the shark was put back into the ocean in excellent condition.

Getting data from a Sandbar shark

Getting data from a Sandbar shark

After these two sharks we got data on another two nurse sharks and another sandbar shark. All of the workups were done quickly, and everyone on the boat had an opportunity to help with at least one aspect of the work up. We had a great day, with a lot of important data collected. I hope that the group from Big Brothers Big Sisters had as amazing as a day as I did. I enjoy every trip that I go on and appreciate all the opportunities that I have to help aid in the conservation of these incredible animals.

Group picture, back on the dock!


Shark tagging with Our Lady of Lourdes Academy

By Jessica Wingar, RJD Intern

Waking up on Sunday morning, I was extremely excited to be going shark tagging, since it was my first trip in a few months.  I got up, checked the weather, it said less than 60 degrees. I was very surprised, doned my sweatpants and sweatshirt, and set off to Diver’s Paradise at Crandon Marina.

We arrived at Diver’s Paradise around 8am and loaded the gear onto the boat. Despite the fact that we were freezing, we were all anticipating a great day of shark tagging. The group from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy arrived around 9am. Captain Nick gave a quick safety briefing followed by an explanation of our drumline system by trip leaders Dani and Jake. We had added extension lines because we were going to go to a deeper site.

Dani cuts up bait on the way out to the site.

Dani cuts up bait on the way out to the site.

The girls and teachers were all very excited while we headed out to the site. Once we got the site, the captain made the decision that it was too choppy to shark tag there. Instead of the deep site, we went to Stiltsville instead. The team quickly took the extension lines off, and prepared the first several lines to go out.

After about another half an hour, we suddenly felt the boat start to slow and we saw the famous houses at Stiltsville. The team gathered the students near the back of the boat to demonstrate how we were going to deploy the lines. After the first line, the students were given the opportunity to deploy some lines. The students were organized into groups, which made the whole process run very smoothly.

Our first shark was a gorgeous blacktip. We swiftly brought the animal up onto the boat and did the work up. With the help of the students, the shark was back in the water within five minutes. Our next shark was a small nurse shark, which wriggled its way off of the line. We then worked up a blacknose followed by a beautiful 230cm lemon shark. This was only the second lemon shark I have ever seen. They have such distinctive teeth and I was in awe at the splendor of this animal.

A beautiful blacktip shark.

A beautiful blacktip shark.

After the lemon shark we were able to work up another blacktip, blacknose, and a sizeable nurse. All of the sharks were worked up quickly with the help of the students and teachers. We had a great, busy day seeing a lot of variety of shark species. Every trip that I go on is different and every trip gives me the reminder that I am so lucky to have these opportunities. I hope that the students and teachers had as great of a day as I did and are now encouraged to go out and do more conservation work.


Group picture back on the dock.


Shark Tagging with 360 Destinations

By Beau Marsh, RJD Inter

We enjoyed yet another beautiful day of shark tagging.  The RJ Dunlap team had the pleasure of taking out the 360 Destinations group.  Since the group was rather large, we had the added excitement of sending out two boats, in tandem.  Spirits were high as everyone assembled at the Crandon Park as it was a gorgeous day. Plus, there was some playful jesting between the two crews over who would see more sharks.  The competition would be fierce!  Today’s destination for both boats was Soldier Key, a brisk 30 minute boat ride away.  As we were preparing to depart the marina, we were met with a pleasant surprise.  A friendly manatee graced us with its presence in order to get a drink of freshwater from the dock hose.  Our sirenian friend was a great preface to a fun day, and saw us off to Soldier Key.

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In route to Soldier Key our enthusiastic guests were given a rundown on the kind of research our program conducts.  They were excited to know that they would be assisting in collecting real data that actively works toward the education and conservation of shark species.  Everyone was engaging and friendly and showed a true interest in the work our team does.  It was a treat getting to know some of our guests.  I even met a fellow Chicago native (Go Blackhawks!).  Upon our arrival at our fishing spot, both boats spread out and deployed our respective drum lines.  Of course, the helpful guests of 360 Destinations assisted us in deploying our lines.  I was impressed with their willingness to assent to our very serious superstition of kissing the bait before deployment.  Anyways, they were intrigued to interact with our specialty gear and learn how our drum line system allows us to safely catch and release sharks with the animal’s health in mind.  Once our 10 lines were in the water, we allowed them to soak for an hour.  This gave us the opportunity to demonstrate the process involved with working up a shark once we catch one.  We displayed all of the tools we would be using and explained what kind of samples are collected (e.g. nictitating membrane, measurements, fin clip, blood).  We also showed them how we insert our tags into the dorsal fin.  It was great to see the whole group getting involved by asking questions and getting a good look at all of our gear.  Our trainees were well prepared.

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Once the obligatory soak time was up, we headed towards our first line.  We demonstrated the proper form in pulling up lines, and then let our excited guests take have a try.  Unfortunately, our first set of lines did not hook anything.  Although, we were still having a great time on the water in beautiful weather.  We had been in communication with our other boat that was out, and they informed us that on their first set they were lucky enough to catch a nurse shark.  The pressure was really on now!  So, we put new baits on our lines in hopes of better luck on the next set.

We returned to our lines for our second (and final) set of lines.  We had 10 more chances left.  It was a slow start.  Our first five, again, rendered nothing.  We pulled up these lines and stowed them away for the day.  Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for came on our sixth line.  Like the other boat, we caught an amazing nurse shark.  Its total length was about 2.3 meters, and she was feisty until we carefully restrained her.  Everyone from 360 Destinations was standing by and ready with their instruments.  They did a fantastic job, and helped us to collect each sample without error.  It was a successful workup, we safely released the nurse shark in a timely fashion.  It was a great experience for everyone involved, crew and guests.  We retrieved the rest of our lines and returned to the marina.

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Over the course of the afternoon, each of our boats caught a nurse shark.  That is two new sets of data RJ Dunlap can use in our research.  Also, it is two rare opportunities for people to safely interact with two amazing animals.  We should all feel fortunate that to have had such an experience.  Thanks to all the 360 Destinations guests.  RJD had a great day on the water with everyone, and we hope you a memorable time.


Shark Tagging in West Palm Beach with American Heritage Academy

By Emily Rose Nelson, RJD Intern

I had been trapped in my office, with no sight of the ocean for over a month. If this trip had been one day later I might have gone crazy, I needed to get out on the water. That being said, I was even more excited than usual to go shark tagging. We met at RSMAS bright and early to load gear and somehow managed to fit all of our gear plus 4 people into my car. Before even leaving RSMAS I found barracuda scales in my hair, a sure sign that it was going to be a good day.

After an easy drive and an obligatory stop at the nearest Starbucks the team arrived at the dock in West Palm. This was only the second day trip we had run with Jim Abernethy’s Scuba Adventures (RJD runs a research expedition in the Bahamas to “Tiger Beach” with JASA) and we were eager to check out the new fishing site. After loading gear with the help of our guests for the day, American Heritage Academy, we were off.

Photo 1 (1)

The RJD team preps gear for a day of shark tagging.

The conditions were perfect; the ocean was flat calm and their wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We set all 30 lines and throughout the day did not pull up a single shark. However, everyone was still in high spirits. It was a beautiful day and we had time for a couple swimming breaks. We even had the chance to see a Loggerhead Sea Turtle swimming by. We set 6 additional lines with hopes that we would get lucky at the end.

On the 33rd line of the day someone yelled what we had been waiting to hear all day,  “tension!” The RJD team waited in anticipation to confirm that there was a shark on the line and suddenly it surfaced. My all time favorite, a beautiful, juvenile tiger shark was on the end of the line. As we pulled her up it quickly became clear that she was a strong girl. After a couple of attempts, we safely restrained her on the platform in order to perform a quick work up. One of my favorite moments of the day was helping one of the high school students place a dart tag in the shark. It was his first time on a boat and excitement was pouring out of him. After we collected all the data from her, we safely released the shark and she swam off in excellent condition.

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Removing the pump from the tiger shark in order to safely release it back into the ocean.

As we headed back to dock the RJD team started to clean up, feeling satisfied with the day. However, the fun was not over yet. A group of dolphins decided to hitch a ride with us. They were jumping and playing at the bow of the boat for quite some time. While I am not much of a “dolphin person” I can’t help but smile whenever this happens, it was the perfect way to end a great day on the water!


Shark Tagging with St. Thomas Aquinas

By Emily Rose Nelson, RJD Intern

After collecting gear from RSMAS I met up with the rest of the team at the dock of divers paradise. We had a great crew on board and everyone was excited to get out there. Our guests for the day, the marine biology club from St. Thomas Aquinas High School, made their way on board, and after introductions we were off.

We were fishing in the Key Biscayne Safety Valve right near Stiltsville. RJD had been to this sight a few times in the days before and had great luck so I was feeling optimistic. As I was pulling in a line toward the end of the first set I felt a little tug but not much; I assumed it was just a big piece of bait. As I continued to pull the line up I felt a number of tiny tugs, but still just passed it off as a big chunk of barracuda. After I had almost the whole line in I realized it indeed not just bait on the end of the line but an Atlantic Sharpnose. These sharks are one of the smaller species we catch, rarely reaching a total length much greater than 1 meter. Our team brought the shark on board for a quick work up. The students from St. Thomas Aquinas did a great job assisting in the process and the shark was back in the water in no time.

Not shortly after, as we were approaching one of our drumlines Captain Eric called down to the deck “shark on.” From up top he could see the beautiful Great Hammerhead we had on this line before we even started to pull it in. Knowing that hammerheads are especially vulnerable to capture stress I pulled the line in swiftly. We assessed the condition of the shark and after confirming it was doing well the team restrained it along the side of the boat. We attached a satellite tag to the animal and released it as quickly as possible. The shark swam away with no sign of stress, kicking hard back on its way. I am excited to watch where this beautiful shark travels through the satellite tracking data.


The RJD team carefully attaches a satellite tag to the great hammerhead.

Before the day was over we brought up one more shark, an RJD favorite, the nurse. Despite common belief, nurse sharks are very powerful and always give us a run for our money. The team brought the shark onto the platform for a quick work up. After collecting all of our data we released the shark in excellent condition.

All in all, we had a great day on the water with Captain Eric from Diver’s Paradise and the Marine Biology club from St. Thomas Aquinas. I’m already looking forward to the next trip!



Thanks for a great day on the water St. Thomas Aquinas!