The Horrible, No Good, Worst Day Ever!!

Ok, not really…,but sort of.

Saturday, March 26th 2011

Fresh off an awesome trip to the Dry Tortugas over spring break, we were hoping that the good fortunes would continue to be with us as the shark trips were brought back to Sea Base. The conditions could not have been any better- a light chop on the water, clear skies with nothing but sunshine, and warm temperatures. In fact, owing to such great conditions, we were able to head out to the edge of the outer reef, to a depth of approximately 120-125 feet.

Ten drumlines went quickly into the water and the team was able to enjoy a little free time in the water before the drumlines had to be picked up.  After the drumlines soaked for about an hour, we were ready to bring them in…..little did we know what the day had in store for us!!

The first set yielded not a single bite on the delicious barracuda and mackerel we used as bait and no sharks were caught. A bit discouraged but not completely out for the day, we set out the second set of drumlines hoping for better results. Nevertheless, as each drumline was brought up for the second time, the results were identical to the first set- not one single shark! Frustrated and feeling a bit down, the third set was placed into the water and soaked for an extra couple of minutes.

So far we were 0 for 20…would we be 0 for 30? There was excitement for each line brought in but unfortunately nothing rewarding on the end….that is until the final line. On the 30th and final line of the day, we noticed some tension at the end and finally were able to set our sights on the first – and only – shark of the day: a sandbar shark!! Excitement rang throughout the boat and we were quick to bring it in and break the streak of no sharks!!

However, we were too soon to speak and just as the shark was in the perfect position to be grabbed by the tail rope, a sudden movement by the shark caused the hook to become loose, enabling it to free itself. Shocked, the whole boat watched the approximately 210 cm male sandbar shark swim back down into the depths of the water.

It was an upsetting moment for all of us, but it’s the reality of field work in science. Days like these confirm that research and conservation efforts by RJD are necessary in making sure that elasmobranches are better understood, in hopes to one day curb their dwindling populations. However the outcome, it was a great day on the water with some good company and we all got a good workout from bringing up the lines! Hopefully the next trip will bring better results!

Elasmobranch love,

Julia Lampe (Shark Research Intern)


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