The Berries – part 2

sail reflections
Sunrise at the Pink House.
Mark Christine Lemon
Mark Bond and Christine O’Connell tagging a lemon shark. Photo credit: Sean Williams.

The Berries are absolutely beautiful, and yesterday the water was perfectly calm. The sea mirrored the sky. The sunrise was stunning. It was bitter-sweet for me since it was my last morning here.

We started the day early and spent the morning at a location Mark named Pink House. It’s a beautiful spot nestled behind some small islands with shallow flats and filled with mangroves. A baby lemon shark paradise. Last year they caught 8 sharks at this site.

We put out the chum crate and cast out our lines. After a while, we ended up hooking a decent size male lemon shark. Mark pulled it along side the boat and I took the DNA sample. I got to put the tag in on this one, which was really exciting. The tag goes right at the base of the dorsal fin, so it is out of the way and doesn’t interfere with the shark at all. The skin around the tag heals up quickly, similar to an earring in the lobe of your ear, and stays with the shark as it grows. We take note of the tag number. If the shark is ever caught, either by a fishermen or a researcher, they will (hopefully) call in the tag number to a special hotline and the team can track the shark’s growth and movements.

me and grouper
Christine O’Connell and the 8 pound mutton snapper she caught.
shallow waters
Mark Bond and Sean Williams on the bow of the boat.

As we were finishing up, the fishing line on the back of the boat started getting pulled out really fast. We hooked another! I jumped up and ran over to it. This one was a struggle to reel in. I stayed with it – pulled the rod tip up slowly when it pulled back, and lowered the rod tip down and reeled in fast when the line went slack. By the way it was pulling, I thought this shark would be a good size. However, as I reeled it in closer, I soon realized that it wasn’t a shark on my line at all, but a huge (for my standards) mutton snapper instead.

We spent a few more hours at various spots in the cove. We caught a small nurse shark, but released it right away. Nurse sharks are actually doing quite well and are not targeted by fisheries, so they are not part of this study. There was another lemon that kept coming close to us, but never took the bait. We gave up around noon and headed back to the boat.

Shark research takes a lot of patience, knowledge and skill. I was lucky to be able to learn from some of the best shark researchers out there. All and all, the team has tagged about 70 sharks over the past 2 years!

I got to take a quick snorkel around the cove while the skiff was being loaded on the big boat. I saw a green sea turtle, a school of small yellowtail, and 2 barracudas.

We left the Berries and headed to Nassau to drop me off (back to NY sadly) and pick up more team members for the Cat Island section with the oceanic whitetips. I’m sad to miss this leg of the trip, but will keep in touch with the team and continue to give updates from field over the next few weeks – so stay tuned!

sean sunrise
Sean sitting at the bow of the boat as we took off in the morning.

 

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