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expeditions/ 2005 RAMP/9_24_05
- Predators everywhere
David Nichols, State of Hawaii, DLNR, HIHWNMS
Yannis Papastamatiou, Carl Meyer, Randy
Kosaki and Matt Craig prepare to implant an acoustic transmitter
into the abdomen of a 12-foot tiger shark. HI-2 vessel operator,
HI'IALAKAI Crewmember Merlyn Gordon keeps a watchful eye on
Today was jam-packed with excitement from start to finish.
We finally made it to Pearl and Hermes Atoll after a sleepless
evening of rocking and rolling (the vessel not the night-life).
The apex predator team started the morning setting some bottom
longlines (baited with large chunks of shark meat) in hopes
of catching some large sharks (i.e. tiger sharks). Next we
spent a little time trolling for suitable uku in which to
place a few transmitters. They managed to catch at least four
of the largest uku I have ever seen. Receivers were implanted
successfully and we were barely an hour into our day.
we needed to retrieve the three receivers that were strategically
placed around the atoll. At the site of the last receiver
pick-up the team chose to scuba dive to also collect the required
reef fish specimens for the various research projects. As
I descended with the team my initial impression of the reef
below was calm and peaceful. There were a few ledges but for
the most part the area was flat with little structure. As
I got closer to the bottom the reef life came into view and
my impression started to change. I saw fish that I have never
seen elsewhere in Hawaii. Fish that I had no idea even existed
– I took photographs of those I could get close to so
I could later identify in the lab back on the Hi`ialakai.
collecting method used by the team for reef fish occasionally
leaves a little blood in the water. I don’t know if
there is a correlation, but as the dive progresses more and
more Galapagos sharks show up to do their own little surveying.
At one point during the dive I counted eight sharks all about
eight feet in length including a couple that were lazily swimming
among us. There were numerous large, very aggressive jacks
(ulua) in the area that would also that would attempt to steal
the reef fish specimens as they were collected. Toward the
end of the dive, in an attempt to discourage an attcking school
of ulua from stealing specimens, lead scientist Randy Kosaki
began pushing them away from his bag with his three-prong
spear. One of the ulua began to swim erratically. That was
all it took for the sharks to begin to devour the animal.
In just a few moments a writhing mass of gray bodies descended
on the ulua. In seconds, there was nothing left of it, and
the sharks were still agitated and now looking for some new
“action”. When I looked around this time there
were more sharks in the area than I could count. This calm
and peaceful reef was anything but. It was time to ascend!
Carl Meyer of HIMB releases an uku after implanting
an acoustic transmitter into its abdomen.
another brief period of collecting – in a completely
different location – it was time to retrieve the longlines.
The lines began coming in a little tangled which would indicate
something large and active was on the line. Then some smaller
six-foot sharks began coming up on the hooks. I am just guessing
at the total length here because these sharks were coming
up with the back half of their body completely bitten off
– cleanly – in a single bite. Next to come up
on the line (or at least start to come up) was a large tiger
shark around 12 feet in length. As this shark was being pulled
near the boat the shark was able to spit/regurgitate the hook
and bait. As we continued to pull in the line we realized
that it had spit out a half-eaten Galapagos shark that had
been caught on our hook.
on the line was another large (12 foot) tiger shark. This
one was actually hooked in the jaw and we were able to bring
it alongside the small boat for measurements and to implant
a transmitter into the abdomen. This wasn’t the last
large tiger shark – there were two or three more that
came up on the line in which we managed to implant transmitters.
was all about sharks. There seems to be plenty of them. The
research being done today will help us understand just how
far these sharks are traveling. I don’t wish to perpetuate
that myth that sharks are brutal creatures that should be
feared but, after what I witnessed today, they definitely
deserve our respect.
Yannis Papastamatiou, shark biologist
from HIMB, retrieves an acoustic tag receiver at Pearl and
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