Shark Tagging with the Guy Harvey Research Institute is one of the highlights of my job working at Pompano Dive Center as a divemaster. The Guy Harvey Research Institute is a non-profit organization partnered with Nova Southeastern University is one of the foremost marine science centers in the United States, leading the way in providing essential scientific information to understand and save the world’s fish resources and biodiversity from drastic, ongoing declines. Essentially being one of the first quantitative studies done on shark populations in this area of the East Coast of Florida, shark tagging is done to give researchers a better idea of how the populations of varying shark species are fairing.
Each day of shark tagging takes all day usually dropping the first bait around 8 am and usually finishing around 5 pm. Bonita being the preferred bait of choice being a tuna and more oily blood makes for a smellier fish which is more likely to attract the sharks. The bait is attached to a big 40Ib weight with 20 ft of HEAVY 300-pound monofilament leader on a swivel to allow the shark to still swim and breathe upon being hooked. We use a circle hook to give the greatest chance of the shark to get hooked in the corner of the mouth and ensure a safe and successful release. A total of 10 baits are dropped in pairs of two at a distance from each other at 25,40,60,80 and 100ft depths. Usually letting the baits soak for about an hour before going to check and re-bait them. Depending on the number of sharks we catch and tag we will usually do 2-3 rebaits to get the most data we can in a single day of tagging.
The reason why I am brought along as a divemaster, not only being another pair of hands they can use is being there in case the weight or line gets caught on the reef below I am on board to put on my scuba gear, dive down, and free the line or weight from the reef. Usually doesn’t happen but today it did! The first of the 60ft lines we tried pulling up got stuck on the reef so I had to go down with there possibly being an upwards of a 10-foot long shark on the line down there. I geared up and dove down to the bottom to find a 9 ft Lemon shark on the line resting on the bottom and the monofilament leader caught around a rock on the reef. Being a crappy day for visibility being 25-30 feet the Lemon shark looked like a huge dark blob that I was swimming towards not knowing what I was swimming towards, pretty freaky!! But I loved every second and ended up freeing the line and successfully tagged the 9-foot long male Lemon shark and successfully releasing him. We tagged 4 sharks in total all being of a different species (Lemon, Sandbar, Nurse, and Bull.)