Well, after a whirlwind summer, I am officially finished with my first field season of shark sampling. All in all, I sampled from a whopping 71 sharks and tagged 20 of them with acoustic tags. I’ll have another field season next year, but until then I’ll be sorting through samples and thinking of ways to make my research go smoother and easier. One way I’ll be doing this is redesigning our shark sling — currently, it’s like a U shaped piece of fabric that is 8 feet long (we also like to call it the “shark taco” if that helps you picture it, but you can also watch a video of a shark release below). It does great at holding the shark in place but with the winds and currents in Willapa Bay, however, the sling often turns into an underwater sail, swinging out or pulling the boat around. So, with that in mind, I’ll be creating a “version 2” which will hopefully be able to restrain the shark AND stay solidly in place next to the side of the boat.
I also spent a lot of time talking with fishermen this summer, which is always one of my favorite parts of research. Walking the docks in Willapa Bay allows me to meet with people face-to-face and talk to them about the things they see on the water….particularly because they spend a lot more time out there than I do (unfortunately!). Some of my favorite interactions were with 2nd or 3rd generation fishermen who didn’t know that there were sharks in Willapa Bay at all. Most of these fishermen were oyster farmers and therefore never use gears to catch these large animals. Still, being able to talk about some of the top predators in their local waters is a great opportunity to spread awareness and understanding about the impact that sharks have, particularly in a positive light.
I wouldn’t have been able to conduct this research without the generous support of Oregon Sea Grant, and I just wanted to thank the amazing team of people there who answered questions, connected me with resources, and have continued to inspire me to make the greatest impact possible.