The Beacon

Austin Nichols Goes Shark Tagging Off the Coast of Florida

Austin Nichols goes shark tagging with the University of Miami’s R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program and Oceana. (Photo: Oceana / Melissa Forsyth)

It’s not every day that celebrities help with scientific research, but earlier this month, Austin Nichols (“One Tree Hill,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Wimbledon,” and “John from Cincinnati”) shared his passion about sharks with researchers at the University of Miami. He spent two days off the coast of Florida tagging sharks with Oceana and the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami, and tagged a total of seven sharks while he was on the water. The R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program uses satellite telemetry to study threatened sharks’ ‘hot spots’ for feeding, mating, and breeding in the subtropical Atlantic, and uses that information to inform effective conservation and policy.

“I tell people all the time how I like to dive, and a lot of people are scared of the ocean. I want everyone to know that you don’t need to be,” said Nichols. “I see sharks all the time and swim with them. They’re really smart and really intelligent fish, and I feel like we could all open our hearts to them a little bit more. We’ve been inundated by the movies to think they’re these bloodthirsty human eaters, but they’re not.”

The team set out to find a hammerhead, bull, or tiger shark to deploy a satellite tag, but were unable to catch one while on the water. Instead, on the first day, the team caught a feisty nurse shark and blacktip shark—which the researchers said had been rare in recent years— and then caught four black nose sharks and a nearly seven-foot-long lemon shark on the second day. All of the sharks caught on the second day were males.

The researchers inserted spaghetti tags— long, slender tags with a unique identification number — into all seven shark’s dorsal fins, and also took measurements and fin, tissue, and blood samples from each shark.

“The nurse shark is supposed to be the calmest shark in the water, but when you catch one and try to pull it on the boat, it’s the most rambunctious shark out there,” explained Nichols. “The scientists had to jump on it and hold it still, and it was a fascinating thing to watch this calm shark be really strong.”

Nautica, a proud supporter of Oceana since 2009, purchased the intended satellite tag to deploy on this trip as part of a series of summer collaborations with Oceana and Austin. The first took place last month, when Nichols co-hosted the Nautica Oceana Beach House event in Santa Monica alongside Miranda Cosgrove ("iCarly" and "Despicable Me"), and the second is ongoing as Austin helps Nautica design and produce a t-shirt that will be sold later this summer and will benefit Oceana.

Click here to learn more about Oceana’s work to protect sharks from bycatch, shark finning, and other threats. 


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