[slideshow] On Wednesday, April 20th the Shark Team started a long day a reconnaissance fieldwork by boarding a 5:00 am ferry from Davis Harbor, Eleuthera, heading to Half Moon Cay. The objectives of this first time visit were to identify ideal habitats for juvenile lemon sharks, and to sample the shark population by inserting small, conventional “spaghetti” tags just below their dorsal fin and taking DNA samples. After a two-hour ride on the Half Moon Cay Clipper, we were greeted at the dock and offered a delicious, hot breakfast. Once we were fueled for day of hard work, we were driven by boat and dropped off at two different locations in the heart of the island’s beautiful creek system.
Two members of the team sampled an area known as the “shark pond,” a large shallow lagoon protected on all sides by death rock, mangroves and sandy shorelines. Before they were even able to set a survey line, they spotted four juvenile lemons swimming in the knee high water only feet from where they were standing. After gathering their gear, the pair at the shark pond gave the rest of the team a wave and began a successful day in which they caught and tagged six juvenile lemon sharks. The sharks ranged from 0.6 to 1.0 meters in length. Another larger lemon shark, close to 1.5 meters was also caught, but bit through the survey line before it could be sampled.
The rest of the team ventured closer to the mouth of the creek and were dropped off in a sandy flats habitat closer to a deeper water channel. They were able to catch and tag four lemon sharks, making the grand total for the day a whopping ten sharks. In the brief period of time the researchers spent at Half Moon Cay, they could already conclude that it is a very productive area, yielding a high abundance of sharks.
The island of Little San Salvador where Half Moon Cay is located is a popular cruise ship attraction and frequented by large numbers of visitors on a daily basis, throughout the year. Half Moon Cay has received several awards for being amongst the most eco-friendly resorts in the Caribbean. The Shark Team applauds Half Moon Cay in its effort to educate tourists about the environment in The Bahamas. This very successful day of research would not have been possible without the help of Half Moon Cay staff and resources. The team of researchers observed a very strong presence of juvenile lemon sharks throughout the island’s creek system. The Cape Eleuthera Institute Shark Research and Conservation Program looks forward to building this partnership with Half Moon Cay, as it possesses critical shark nursery habitat and a new population to study in comparison to those of Eleuthera.