Tagging the first ever shark in the BVI

Delighted to take part in another thrilling first, as we became the first people to ever tag a shark in the British Virgin Islands.

Dr Neil Hammerschlag, who runs the shark research program at the University of Miami's Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, brought his wonderful team of shark experts over to the BVI for a special scientific expedition onto the ocean. They have taken more than 1600 youths out shark tagging to rekindle interest in species conservation and the wonder of sharks. Today, we became Citizen Scientists and joined the team.

The BVI are in the process of declaring the waters a "shark sanctuary", protecting all shark species within the area. However, very little is known about the number of sharks in the BVI and their habits. This kind of research is critical to protecting these beautiful creatures.


BVI shark tagging
BVI shark tagging

We went out onto the water off Anegada filled with anticipation, hoping we didn't get seasick, and desperate to tag some sharks. We set up 10 buoys and began the rounds of seeing if we could find a shark to tag.

Richard

After an hour we hadn't been lucky enough to find a shark, though a few lines had been bitten. Just as all seemed calm one of the crew was washed into the water. As huge waves crashed around us, the captain did a great job directing the ship, I threw in a lifebuoy and we hauled him back onboard. Phew!

Sharks

Richard

Finally, on the very last buoy, we found a shark. We got him on board to discover a Caribbean Reef Shark, just over one metre long.

We sprung into action, taking blood and tissue samples, and yours truly was given the honour of actually tagging the shark. We've had name suggestions from Lucky to Pickles to Huckleberry. What should we name him?

The health of the shark is paramount, and Dr Neil's team do an incredible job keeping them in great condition, extremely calm, and back in the water remarkably quickly.

Shark

It was really encouraging to see a juvenile shark, probably less than two years old. This is a potential nursery ground for sharks, making it even more important that they and their habitat are protected.

Richard

These aren't ecotourism trips, they are serious science, and they gather an extraordinary amount of data on the sharks. This wasn't a flash in the pan trip, it is just a reconnaissance mission for Dr Neil and his brilliant team; they will be back to do long-term monitoring of the BVI sharks.

If you want to find out more, head over to sharktagging.com, where you can track the whereabouts of the sharks and learn all about them. 

Hopefully the project will raise awareness about the need to protect sharks, so future generations can enjoy these magnificent species too.

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