SFSSP blog: On the boat; drumlining, sampling, tagging

Posted on July 11, 2008
Written by: Shark Savers

July 11, 2008
Text by Leann Winn
Photos by Leann Winn and Rob Stewart

The SFSSP is now the University of Miami RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program

logoSFSSP125 Some people go out to the beach and wonder if there are sharks out there, and when we are asked we simply reply that they are everywhere. Unfortunately numbers are still greatly decreasing, hence why we try to inform and educate the future in hopes that our future generations will know such great creatures. Sometime when we are asked what we do, the simple reply is that we are going sharking. When time is allotted we try to elaborate actually what that means. If you are on one of our trips, a volunteer in the lab, participant in a public awareness day, watching us on TV, reading about us in the newspaper or online, witnessing a presentation during a conference, or any other forms of media you may only get a glimpse of our methodology.

Right now you will be given a highlight of our drumline method, which to some is the most action packed sampling method and most widely
discussed. If the program samples the areas of Biscayne Bay, we will use one or two boats, which in the past were provided to us from Biscayne National Park, but now we are able to use SeaStar Foundation, Inc. and if high school students are joining us then our research fleet will also include the "Pelican" catamaran. If we are sampling in Florida Bay, the program uses the SeaBase facility. During these trips we sleep at SeaBase, which is south of Islamorada and then head out on a 46 ft dive boat to tag big sharks. Whichever trip you are attending, you should be bringing your own personal gear for the field, which will include a wetsuit and/or skinsuit, dive booties, rainjacket, wind breaker, sunglasses, sunscreen, food/ snacks, WATER, headlamp and/or a small dive light, bug repellent spray.

The drumline includes: A main line connects an estimated 60lb base with a float visible from the surface.

Weight and shakle

A shackle attaches the main line to a 3mm 700lb test line approximately 7ft double leader with a baited 18/0 mustard non-offset circle hook.

Yoyo line and hook

We have a local fisherman catch bait early prior to the trip, or we buy it that morning. We set out about 10 drumlines, allow them to sit no more than 2 hours and then we return to see what we catch. In addition, at every site we take environmental and water quality readings. We have had the opportunity to catch atlantic sharpnose, blacktips, bulls, hammerheads, lemons, and tiger sharks. Depending on the size, we either tail rope it or bring it on board. Each work up we record measurements (FL, PCL, and TL), sex, species, and the condition pre and post workup. During the work up we take a fin clip for DNA sample, a biopsy for mercury analysis, insert a rototag and stainless steel head dart tag (SSD).

Palmer Trinity School (PTS) high school student taking fin clip
University of Miami undergraduate volunteer inserting roto tag
University of Miami undergraduate volunteer inserting casey tag

These trips provide an incredible opportunity to gain hands-on practical research and education experience studying sharks, their habitat and behavior. But the only way these trips can be successful is through teamwork every step of the way. This includes all stages of the trip from preparation to clean up after returning to the dock. The program emphasizes on working together until all of the necessary tasks are completed and everyone begins doing things individually.