The Beacon

Tagging Sharks in the Dry Tortugas

Two expedition updates in one day - hold on to your hats! In this one, Oceana marine scientist Elizabeth Wilson describes yesterday’s successful shark tagging adventures, including a monster nurse shark:

Today we traveled to the Dry Tortugas, a small group of islands at the end of the Florida Keys, to study sharks. On board with us is the shark team from University of Miami’s R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, led by Dr. Neil Hammerschlag. Other members of the team on board are Lab Manager and graduate student Dominique Lazzare and Captain Curt Slonim.

We arrived in the Dry Tortugas National Park, anchored near Fort Jefferson and started surveying for sharks. We had a successful research trip where we tagged and sampled three Caribbean reef sharks and two nurse sharks. We attached identification tags to the Caribbean reef sharks and sent them back on their way. The nurse sharks were too big and feisty to bring on the boat for tagging…one was 10.5 feet long and was the biggest nurse shark any of us had ever seen. 

 

Dr. Hammerschlag and his team are evaluating the ecosystem roles of sharks as well as determining the relative abundances, growth rates, and sex ratios of coastal shark species, the presence and concentrations of trace metals and other toxins present in these sharks, and residency and movement patterns of these sharks.

They use the latest in satellite technology to track the daily movements of tagged sharks, which are uploaded online for the public to follow in near-real time.

You can also help protect sharks by telling your Senators to support the Shark Conservation Act, which would end shark finning in U.S. waters and has already passed the U.S. House. Thanks to everyone who has already taken action!

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