Snorkeling with SASC
SASC has multiple ways to catch sharks to gather information for the database and one of those ways is snorkeling in front of the lab and catching sharks with our hands. Today was a snorkeling day because the waters were calm and the visibility was clear, but not too clear that it could cause the sharks to stay away.
The day began as normal with checking the sharks in the tanks and writing down the environmental data for the day. Then we prepared our gear for snorkeling. This included the thick wetsuits because the water can be cold, snorkeling masks, gloves, boots, fins and weight belts. We also prepared two bait canisters to attract sharks nearby, two buoys and a big net to put the caught sharks in while we are still in the water. This net was only meant for the bigger sharks as the smaller sharks would be brought back to shore where they would be put in the tanks directly. Once everything was ready Guy repeated the safety guidelines for Hannah as this was her first time snorkeling for sharks.
And then we were off!
Me and Emily went in with the first bait canister and almost as soon as the canister hit the floor the first shark appeared. Apparently Emily saw it too because right before I could catch the shark, a hand shot out before me and my head was hit by a fin. Luckily Emily still caught the shark otherwise I would have been very disappointed.
The Snorkeling quickly turned CRAZY with the amount of sharks we saw. Most of the time I would secure a shark in the net and not 5 minutes later a new shark appeared before my eyes so I could dive down again. We already found Dark Shysharks, Leopard Catsharks and a Pyjama Shark which was the first time I saw them while snorkeling. Most of the time when there is one Pyjama shark, there are more, so I was determined to get more. I was swimming in the kelp forest towards the bait canister when all of sudden a Pyjama Shark appeared under me. Me and the other interns were advised to call for Guy or Laila when we saw a “PJ” because they are bigger and stronger than the other sharks, so I decided not to be greedy and call for Laila so she could successfully catch the PJ.
Finishing off the day
And that was how a whole hour of snorkeling went. In total, we caught 16 Dark Shysharks, 2 Leopard Catsharks, 5 Pyjama Sharks and even a Puffadder Shyshark which is extra cool because this species is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN so getting data on them is very important. After cleaning and putting away all the gear we started with measuring and tagging the sharks. Sharks that were smaller than 30 cm would not be tagged and only get measured as their body would be too small for the tag.
In the end, our smallest shark was only 25cm while our largest was 103cm! When all the measuring and tagging was done we could start with the most taxing part of the day… releasing all the sharks again. And let me tell you, no amount of weight lifting in the gym can prepare you for carrying a big crate filled with water and a Shark from the lab to the sea (even though you can normally walk that distance within a minute…). At last, this fantastic and eventful day came to an end and I hope we can repeat it again very soon.
Janneke de Bresser