While out on the boat, participants actively engage in catching sharks and reeling them in. Once reeled in, each shark has its length measured and its sex determined with the assistance of Captain Mark Sampson. Captain Sampson works to collect data about several species of sharks off of Maryland’s coastline for a variety of ongoing research projects. He is currently studying and sharing data related to migratory patterns, growth rates, population data and species.
Each shark is also given an injection of oxytetracycline, an antibiotic that stains the vertebrae and provides a baseline for growth data if the shark is ever recaptured. Finally, if the shark is large enough, it is tagged.
The shark tagging is part of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Cooperative Shark Tagging Program. Tagging sharks provides scientists with information on stock identity, migration and abundance, age and growth, mortality and behavior. After tagging, the sharks are safely re-released back to the ocean.
The National Aquarium’s Conservation team went out twice with Captain Sampson this summer and caught a total of 9 sharks. Of these 9 sharks, 3 different species of shark (sandbar, dusky, and spinner) were caught. One of the tagged female sandbar sharks measured almost 6 feet in length!
Want to do your part to help these misunderstood animals? Make sure you are choosing seafood that is caught without harming sharks and help us keep our oceans clean.