There is always excitement when you start your field season. You prepare yourself, your gear and your team but you never really know what will happen when you work with wildlife. We work with recreational anglers that allow us to affix satellite tags to the great hammerheads they catch and release when fishing from shore. This can mean long hours spent on the beach which sounds like a pretty sweet gig and it is…most of the time. Don’t get us wrong, we love what we do but there are some challenges to working on the beach and with large, mobile predators. Sometimes the sharks just aren’t biting and we can spend more than 9 hours on the beach at night through all types of weather. This requires the strategic packing of our gear. Dry stuff needs to stay dry so we use various dry bags and boxes. You need to stay warm, so we pack lots of layers and foul weather gear. But you will be walking quite a distance to the sampling area so you can’t pack too much or your bags get too heavy. We have sat through rain, chilly temperatures, wind, even the hot nights when the bugs are relentless, but it is worth it. The data we are collecting is important for the management of these sharks and when the reel goes off, all the inconveniences are quickly set aside and we prep for action!
We have had a great start to this field season, so far tagging two great hammerheads that were caught in south Florida with short-term satellite tags that will tell us whether or not the animal survives after it is released and if it does, what their behavior looked like. Information collected by the tags will transmit to the satellite system and then we download it and start to analyze the raw data. The first shark tagged this season was a male and the second was a smaller female. The tagging process went smoothly and did not delay the release of the animals as the anglers worked at the same time to remove the hook. We got pictures of each shark using our camera with paired lasers and we will see if we can use this technique to get an accurate length so also not to delay the release by using a traditional tape measure. The water was much warmer than the air temperature so coming back out of the water was a little shocking but luckily we are prepared and always bring a set of dry clothes!
All of this is exciting for us and for the anglers involved. We hope that the catch rate continues at this pace so we can get all our tags out this season! We will keep our fins crossed and will keep you all updated as everything progresses!