Friday, October 25, 2013

Moorea Sharks Day 5

October 24, 2013

Today we got the first real data collection going for our main project.  We were out very early to deploy four cameras that record almost seven hours of video.  We started out at the forereef site near the shark-feeding area.  We were out before any feeding activity so as soon as we dropped in the water we had some curious sharks swimming around us.  The sickle fin lemons – easily over 2.5 meters (8 feet) and maybe near 3m (10 feet) – were quick to investigate what we were up to.  They weren’t shy, coming in close for a look while we attached the cameras to the poles that we put in yesterday.  A few sharks even escorted us between sites.  It was awesome to see the sharks up close! 

Sicklefin lemon sharks circling while we installed the cameras.

Linda and Jeremy installing a camera that recorded 6.5 hours of video

Lemon shark swimming by the team.

Although there weren’t any sharks at our second site (we weren’t expecting many either) we had a good but quick dive getting the cameras installed and left a bit nervous that they would be dry and full of video when we got back at the end of the day.  With the cameras installed we blasted back to CRIOBE to get our shark capture gear and to refill the tanks for the retrieval of the cameras.

We tried fishing on the forereef far away from our camera deployments and we had blacktips surrounding the boat almost before we got clipped onto the mooring buoy!  Before we even had the fishing gear set up Johann found himself in a tug-of-war with a blacktip for the small bag of chum!  Guess who lost…Now, I am told that blacktips never do this, but the one that grabbed it held on as Johann lifted it out of the water, and managed to take to fish with him when his teeth cut through the bag.  Even without the bag for small bits of fish, we caught a shark quickly and got it sampled.  Then, we made sure that the modifications to our shark cam would work – they will (can’t wait to deploy one tomorrow)!  After that shark, though, our luck turned.  Well, it wasn’t really our luck that turned…it was the swarm of triggerfish and some picky blacktips!  Even though there were about a dozen sharks around the boat we eventually were picked clean of bait so we jumped in for a snorkel so Johann could take pictures of the sharks’ fins for identifications.  It was amazing to be in the clear blue water with so many sharks that were willing to swim close.  Even more amazing was seeing two sickle fin lemons below us – one following the other closely.  Johann has seen courtship in the area and it is possible that is what was happening – especially given the mating scars we have seen on females recently.  While the sharks were swimming through they scared a small hawksbill turtle out of its mind!

Eventually it was time to go and we quickly retrieved all four of our stationary cameras.  All were dry and had full memory cards!!  We can’t wait to see what is on them (I will give that update with pictures and maybe some video tomorrow)!  We will be aiming to deploy four or five cameras at least five times a week throughout the trip!

Jeremy and Johann on the way back to switch tanks and get the fishing gear.

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