Archive for June, 2013

more sharks

more sharks

cause they are super cute

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Vegetarians

Vegetarians

Keep Your Friends Close, and Your Flippers Closer

What is 9inches shorter than me, with a smile 9 times as big?

What is 9inches shorter than me, with a smile 9 times as big?

CUDA

Shark Dive

Shark Dive

curiously following reef sharks, they’re tanks.

keep your eyes open out there

It was a long 6 nights in the North Sound doing PIT and it feels good to see a little sun and have a little break from being continually waterlogged (my palms are peeling).

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some of our 50cm+ sharks caught in the North Sound

The last night of PIT was really starting to bring the crazy out of everyone since there are less and less sharks to catch each evening (we pen them as we catch them so not to catch them again), and because we got caught in some band of some tropical storm when they told us the weather was going to be good. At least the almost hurricane force winds kept the bugs at bay for the most part, even though I am disgustingly surprised they are still able to find somewhere left to bite on my body.

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I let Todd know the wind was picking up a little, he followed up with a this picture

My roommate Sophie is here to work on a project for her masters degree in wildlife documentary, so we went out this morning to place called Iyas Spot to get some lemon shark footage. It is a small cove in the mangroves where the baby lemon sharks take refuge during high tide to avoid the larger fish of the sea (chomp chomp). There is a thin waterway tunnel through the mangroves where they arch above your head and the water gets about chest deep which opens up to a small lagoon area. I believe the record number of babe lemon sharks that they have seen exit the lagoon when the tide drops is 39, but we watched closer to 10 different individuals today.

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lil lemon eating a squid chunk

We brought chum and squid into the lagoon to bring the sharks over, and of course any little girls dream, to hand feed some cute baybeeee sharks.

Afterward we exited back through the mangrove tunnel to wait outside so Sophie could get some shots of the sharks leaving the lagoon. I took this opportunity to hunt for sea cucumbers, sea hares, and of course the elusive sea horse.

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i love sea hares

I started out by finding some sea cucumbers, but although they are pretty awesome they don’t tend to be a crowd intriguer. I continued with picking up some sea hares (very gently to keep them from inking themselves!!!!) and they happened to be much more popular. I love to share my excitement for squishy things with other people that can appreciate them. The sharks we still taking their good ol’ time exiting the lagoon so Antonia, Harkiran, and I went on a drift snorkel down the mangroves while we waited. It was so amazingly beautiful to be able to swim through the mangrove roots and to be fully immersed in the mangrove environment. To see the lobster antennas sticking out from under the ledge, the puffer fish flitting about with confused movement, and how exciting was it to see a sea hare rummaging around on the edge of the mangrove floor. … but wait, what is that weird shape of orange next to my cute little sea hare?

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OMG! Is it true! They are real! My very own find of the very cutest little seahorse! Bright orange!..I was certainly the more excited of the two of us….!

PIT, North Sound, [cont]

Made it through night 4 of PIT in the North Sound, slowly we are catching less sharks, but still caught 11 sharks this past night bringing us to a total of 115 sharks, which is really high, probably bringing us to an all time record catch by the end of PIT there (2 more nights), if not already.

Been wishing for a little rain because out water is getting pretty salty at the lab, but was wishing against it last night since it was predicted to rain all evening, and I was thinking it wouldn’t be completely enjoyable to be rained on in a skiff all night without rain gear on. Technically I could have worn rain gear but we have to get into the water to check the net every 15 minutes, so rain pants become pretty pointless.

The wind picked up pretty good and kept the bugs at bay, and no rain harder than a drizzle ever found us.

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Caught 2 small green turtles in our net which was pretty exciting, they were so cute and I was so excited I ended up jumping in with all my clothes on not realizing how deep it was, rookie mistake to do so early in the evening, but I was worried about them all tangled up in the net! We also caught a remora bigger than my forearm, who must have been ditched by a pretty large shark!

Good night, always good to be out, especially without bugs.

84 sharks!

Last night was our first evening of PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) where we insert a small chip under the skin of the shark, each reading its own unique number.

We go up into Biminis North Sound and set gill lines over night to catch baby lemon sharks, putting the lines out for twelve hours, and checking them every fifteen minutes. We went out and had our lines set by 6pm, and pulled the lines in 12 hours later at 6am this morning.

We will set our lines in the North Sound for 6 nights before moving to a different nursery location, typically catching between 60 and 80 sharks in the North Sound each year during PIT.

Last night was our first night in the North Bimini Sound and we were able to pull in 84 sharks! A record number for sure, with very limited by-catch (about 4 or 5 fish I think), and only one shark fatality.

For me, it is still difficult to see sharks die, especially with how targeted they have been, but as far as science goes it is important to realize that one death is a very good number for collecting 84 other sharks, and who have been tagged and whose DNA is going to be used to further the study on the species, which in turn helps an innumerable amount of other sharks.

PIT has been an active annual project here in Bimini for almost 20 years, which is at least how far back you need information on specific animals within a species to start being able to draw conclusions about them and their habits, which in turn helps with their conservation. Through the PIT program and DNA testing that has been going on we have been able to learn that females return every other year to give birth here, and we have been able to see that specific females have returned up to 6 times to give birth here, so 12 years of reproduction devoted to the same little part of bay here. Which are really quite astounding figures to hear about for these “mindless killing machines”.

It is pretty astounding to be able to connect all  of their DNA to see which sharks have been the most productive, to know their relationship to one another and to watch the Bimini family tree of lemon sharks continue to grow.