This year, 2005, marks the 11th year of our annual lemon shark census at Bimini, Bahamas. On June 6th a crew of 23 staff and volunteers from 6 different countries assembled at the Bimini Biological Field Station along with a team from the National Geographic Magazine led by world renowned underwater photographer Brian Skerry.
Prior to the June 6 arrival date the staff had prepared the North Sound for our tagging operation by building four large pens to hold the captive sharks. On the day of arrival the entire team went out by boat to Triangle Rocks for a shark dive and were greeted by about two dozen reef and blacknose sharks. This is the way we always begin the PIT tagging project. Later in the day the novices learned to handle lemon shark pups while the experienced crew got organized for the hard nights ahead.
Over the next 21 days we expect to tag upwards of 175 sharks over 12 nights of fishing. Each of these tiny (60 cm) pups contributes to one of the longest running life-history studies ever carried out on any elasmobranch fish.
Starting in 1995, Dr. Samuel Gruber & the Sharklab crew have been surveying two nursery areas in Bimini's lagoon. These nurseries, the North Sound and Sharkland, serve as home, refuge and feeding grounds for most of Bimini's lemon shark population during the first three years of their lives. In each of the two sites, we net sharks for 12 hour sessions through the night, over the course of six days for a total of 12 days fishing.
Through the duration of the PIT Tagging Program's existence, we have collected data on over 2,500 lemon sharks. By using both Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, and genetic sampling, we are able to identify and trace the life history of each individual pup that has been caught.
As noted this year's PIT Tagging Program will be documented, By the National Geographic Magazine as well as on the Sharklab's official website. Updates on the progress and merriment of PIT 2005 will be posted regularly throughout the campaign.
For more information on the BBFS PIT Tagging Program, click here.