Chris Sanborn: Last Day Shark Tagging, July 17, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christopher Sanborn
Aboard SRV C.E Stillwell
July 13 – 17, 2015

Mission: Cooperative Atlantic States Shark Pupping and Nursery (COASTSPAN) survey
Geographical area of cruise: Delaware Bay
Date: July 17, 2015

Weather

Day 3 weather was Hazardous with gusts up to 20 knots.  Travel in the small C.E Stillwell not advisable.

Day 4 was beautiful and started out with light to variable winds with 0-1 ft seas and ended with 5-10 knots winds with 2-3 ft seas.

Science and Technology Log

Day 3 we attempted our usual 6:00 a.m. departure but after entering the bay it was obvious the working conditions attempting to tag sharks in our small boat would be almost impossible.  We monitored the weather for a possible late morning departure but the weather only increased.  We set ourselves to remarking the intervals on the mainlines as the markings were very faint and difficult at times to see where to set the gangion.

Ben Church and Matt Pezzullo remarking the thousands of feet of line.

Ben Church and Matt Pezzullo remarking the thousands of feet of line.

 

Day 4 We were on the water and had our first line (set) in the water before 7:00 a.m. The conditions were great and we started right outside of Lewes, DE.  In the morning we did 3-50 hook sets and 1-25 hook set in what is called deep hole which is on the Delaware side of the main shipping channel that runs through Delaware Bay.

One of the numerous large ships heading up Delaware Bay

One of the numerous large ships heading up Delaware Bay

As you can see by the picture numerous large ships enter the mouth of the bay and head up.

While we were pulling the line on the deep hole set this large Sand Tiger came to the surface after a lot of hard work by Matt.

 

Same shark we pulled out of deep hole.

Same shark we pulled out of deep hole.

At the end of the day we were able to complete a total of 8 sets.  After finishing deep hole we spent the afternoon on the New Jersey side of the bay just off Cape May.  As can be seen by the July 2015 stations Day 4 was spent at the mouth of the bay.  On the Delaware side we did JY10, JY27, JY28 and Deep Hole.  All JY sets are 50 hook sets while all others are the larger hooks with 25 per main line.

 

 

July 2015 Stations.  Delaware Bay

July 2015 Stations. Delaware Bay

During the afternoon we did JY26, JY18, EX06 followed by JY19.  The order may seem odd looking at the map but sets are planned to ensure that they are retrieved in the correct time frame.  JY18 was just off Sunset Beach in Cape May New Jersey.

Day 1 sets: JY24, JY20, JY22, BG02, SB01, SB02

Day 2 sets: JY07, JY01, JY11, JY13, EX04, ST05, EX07

Day 4 sets: JY10, JY28, JY27, Deep Hole, JY26, Jy19, JY18, EX06

Map of Delaware Bay

Map of Delaware Bay

The following video is from day 1 but gives an idea of how hard it can be to tail rope the sharks.

Once a shark is tail roped and the gangion is cleated to the front of the boat we can collect the biological data and tag the shark.

IMG_0361[1]

The following video is long but if you watch to the end you will see what happens when a hook comes out while a shark is still tail roped.

We also had the opportunity to encounter a few rays.  The following video is of a large Spiny Butterfly Ray we caught

Personal Log:

The shark tagging experience was extremely physically taxing but very rewarding. I had the opportunity to gain hands on experience in an exciting research project that will allow me to bring knowledge and excitement back to my classroom.  My time working on this survey brought me a memorable experience that I will never forget.

I would personally like to thank the other scientists on the survey Nathan Keith, Ben Church and the Chief Scientist on the cruise Matt Pezzulo for sharing their expertise and knowledge on shark morphology and identification. These individuals were always willing to explain any part of the process or answer any questions I had. They took the time to teach me every part of the process early on so that I could become a contributing member from the start.  This type of analysis on sharks takes grit and hard work and I appreciate the opportunity I was given through the Teacher at Sea Program.

Chris Sanborn: 2 Days Shark Tagging, July 15, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christopher Sanborn
Aboard SRV C.E Stillwell
July 13 – 17, 2015

Mission: Cooperative Atlantic States Shark Pupping and Nursery (COASTSPAN) survey
Geographical area of cruise: Delaware Bay
Date: July 15, 2015

Weather

Day 1 weather was mostly overcast 5-10 mph wind with 2-3 ft seas though the swells were larger according to the other individuals on the boat.

Day 2 was forecasted for chance of storms with 10-15 mph winds with 2-3 ft seas..

Science and Technology log

We just finished day two of our shark tagging survey in the Delaware Bay aboard the C.E. Stillwell, a 21 ft. Boston Whaler center console.  The boat seems extremely small at times with 4 people and lots of gear on board.  The crew that I am aboard ship with are Nathan Keith, Natural Resource Management Specialist, Ben Church, Boat Captain for this shark survey, and Matt Pezzullo,Chief Scientist for this shark survey.  Our boat is docked at the University of Delaware Marine Operations pier located in Lewes, DE.  Day 1 of our tagging was mostly spent on the New Jersey side of Delaware Bay.  We left port at 6:00 a.m. and steamed roughly 14 miles across the bay to make our first set. The seas were fairly rough which made for a bumpy ride.

Center Console C.E Stillwell. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith

Center Console C.E Stillwell. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith

Sets are either made with 25 large circle hooks or 50 small circle hooks on a gangion extending from the mainline which is weighted to the bottom.  The mainline is 1000 ft long, plus buoy line which extends from beyond the last hook up to the marker buoy on either end of the line. Our first day on the water we did 4 large sets and 3 small sets.  A large set is 25 large hooks that soak for 2 hours while a small set is 50 smaller hooks that soak for 30 min. We arrived back at port at 7:00 p.m. Day 2 we did 3 large sets and 4 small sets leaving port at 6:00 a.m and arriving back in port at about 5:30 p.m.  All hooks are baited with mackerel as seen on the large hooks in the following video.

Nathan Keith baiting smaller hooks.

Nathan Keith baiting smaller hooks.

The long line is retrieved by hand,  Sharks 130 cm and below are brought on board the boat for biological workup which includes fork length, pelvic and dorsal girth, sex, weight (if conditions allow) and then tagged.

Ben and I working up a shark on board the boat. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.

Ben and I working up a shark on board the boat. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.

Ben Church holding a Sandbar Shark that had been bit by a Sand Tiger Shark while on the line, while I read the weight. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.

Ben Church holding a shark while I read the weight. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.

Sharks greater than 130 cm get the full biological workup except weights.  These sharks are tail roped and cleated to the side of the vessel.

Me Dart Tagging a Sand Tiger Shark while Matt Pezzullo looks on. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.

Me Dart Tagging a Sand Tiger Shark while Matt Pezzullo looks on. Photo courtesy of Nathan Keith.

All sharks under 100 cm receive a roto tag in the dorsal fin while sharks over 100 cm receive the dart tag seen in the picture.

 Day 1 Sharks:

    58 Total Sharks tagged

        45 Sandbar Sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus)

        11 Sand Tiger Sharks (Carcharias taurus)

        1 Blacktip Shark  (Carcharhinus limbatus)

        1 Atlantic Sharpnose  (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae)

Day 2 Sharks:

    44 Total Sharks tagged

        43 Sandbar Sharks  (Carcharhinus plumbeus)

        1 Sand Tiger Shark (Carcharias taurus)

We also had some bycatch with a number of rays.  The largest ray was 176 cm across which had an enormous amount of power.  All rays are measured across the disk width and sexed.  We caught Bullnose (Myliobatis freminvillii) , Bluntnose (Dasyatis say), Southern Sting Ray (Dasyatis americana), and Spiny Butterfly (Gymnura altavela).  We also caught on line a Clearnose Skate (Raja eglanteria) and a Weakfish (Cynoscion regalis).

 

Personal Blog:

Besides the beating we take in a 21 ft. center console motoring miles between sets, back and forth, the extreme physical toll of pulling in a long line is very taxing.  Day 1 of our survey was exciting as we caught numerous large Sandbar and Sand Tiger sharks.  Although it was an adrenaline filled experience I can say I was extremely spent at the end of the day!  Day 2 we only caught a few sharks that we were unable to bring on board the boat.  The biggest problem with day 2 was the ever-changing weather.  Some of the day was even spent in the pouring rain.  Boat operator Ben Church and Chief Scientist Matt Pezzullo were constantly aware of weather conditions for safety as well as assuring that setting and hauling of gear could be set and hauled safely and in a timely manner. Sharks that are brought on board are secured just underneath the jaw as you can seen in many of the pictures. The skin of the shark is very similar to sandpaper for anyone that has felt a shark or dissected one in my class.  The skin on my hands has worn away and new skin has been exposed.

Day 3 starts early in the morning so I am headed to bed!

 

Christopher Sanborn: Preparing for Survey, July 12, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christopher Sanborn
Preparing to Board SRV C.E Stillwell
July 13 – 17, 2015

Mission: Cooperative Atlantic States Shark Pupping and Nursery (COASTSPAN) survey
Geographical area of cruise: Delaware Bay
Date: July 12, 2015

Personal Log

My Name is Christopher Sanborn and I am a science teacher at Plymouth Regional High School (PRHS) in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Plymouth is considered the gateway to the beautiful White Mountains. I just finished up my 18th year teaching high school science.  I feel extremely lucky to live and work in such a wonderful small town with so many outdoor opportunities.  Numerous ski areas are located within a short distance of town as well as some of the most scenic hiking in the east.  Plymouth is located in the Lakes Region of NH which includes the largest lake in NH, Lake Winnipesaukee and the beautiful Squam Lake.  Having grown up in the outdoors I have always felt at home in the woods and mountains and have thoroughly enjoyed teaching Biology.  I have also taught numerous other subjects including Physics, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Oceanography.

I can think of no better way to increase my knowledge than to embark on one of the highest quality, hands on, scientific research survey’s.  I became involved in the Teacher at Sea (TAS) program to not only increase my knowledge, but to gain valuable tools to enrich the educational experience of my students.  The most important part of teaching is to engage students to increase active learning opportunities.  I am hoping my experience on the COASTSPAN survey will allow me the valuable tools to excite those students about their learning opportunity.

My boys, Trevan, Caden, and Cavan in front of Boston Harbor at the New England Aquarium

My boys, Trevan, Caden, and Cavan in front of Boston Harbor at the New England Aquarium

 

My wife Sarah, myself and our 3 sons cutting a Christmas tree  on our property.

My wife Sarah, myself and our 3 sons cutting a Christmas tree on our property.

I am so excited to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on this COASTSPAN survey which is part of the Apex Predators Program (APP) through the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC).  The purpose of this survey is to determine the relative abundance and distribution of sharks in the Delaware Bay Pupping grounds. The survey also originally helped to determine the location of the shark pupping and nursing grounds.  The primary method of sampling will be through longlining.  A longline is a long main line with weights on either end to hold it on the bottom with a line to the surface marked by a high flyer or buoy.  Baited hooks are attached to the main line using a snap swivel with a 5 foot gangion.  Each gangion is spaced by approximately 10 feet.  These lines are considered fixed gear because they do not flow with the current.  Biological data is gathered from all sharks and rays that are caught, they are tagged with a unique identifier and then released.

NOAA Fishieries, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Apex Predator Program

NOAA Fishieries, Northest Fisheries Science Center, Apex Predator Program

 

Thank you NOAA for this great opportunity!