Early in the morning on Monday February 22nd the shark team in collaboration with the flats program packed up a van full of gear for a days worth of research and traveled North to Savannah Sound. Program managers and interns set creek modified survey lines in the sound, for the first time as a part of an ongoing lemon shark study conducted by the Shark Research and Conservation Program at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. This study has been underway for just over a year and focuses primarily on the abundance and distribution of juvenile lemon sharks in tidal creeks around South Eleuthera. In effort to expand the scope of the study, the team is venturing to new areas, like Savannah Sound.
Each shark caught on the survey line underwent the same cataloguing process of species identification, sex, weight, length measurements, tag insertion, hook removal, and a fin clipping for DNA. Fin clippings and tag numbers from sharks of a population which is new to our database, will provide important information on the genetic variability, relative abundance, and movement behavoir of lemon shark populations across Eleuthera. In total, two juvenile lemon sharks and one sub-adult blacknose were caught over a series of four surveys. Additionally, the blacknose was the first ever recorded since the inception of the study. Data on this individual will aid projects of collaborating scientists, studying this species, and continue to promote Eleuthera as a center for shark studies in The Bahamas. More sharks were observed swimming in the sound than were caught on the line, indicating Savannah Sound might be a high traffic area for sharks, and a worth–while location to survey on a regular basis in the future. After speaking to local fishermen about reported sightings, not only does the sound appear to be abundant in sharks, but also diverse, hosting species from juvenile lemons to mature tiger sharks. With the help of avid fishermen and seasoned biologists, Dr. Dave Philipp and Aaron Shultz M.S., the shark research team solidified an already great relationship with local bonefishing guide Denny Rankine. The team met with him prior to their departure to discuss potential survey plans. Denny has been involved in the Bahamas-wide bonefish tagging program and has tagged over 100 bonefish. He has graciously offered to continue to support the shark and flats research programs at CEI by providing guidance and transportation during future surveys in his home waters of Savannah Sound.