Blacktip action!

Blacktips (Carcharhinus limbatus) and the BBFSF (The Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation) Team

In this blog I hope to grab your attention whilst I write about some exciting Blacktip fishing and how you can help do your bit for sharks, even from the comfort of your reclining armchair or perhaps the early morning train you ride to work!

Blacktip action 

A team and I headed out at noon with our pack lunches full to the rim, sun cream at the ready and fishing equipment cleaned and waiting for action! So with our lines set it was, as usual, a waiting game. A few curious fish were drawn in to circle the bait and the odd stingray cruised past to have a closer look what was on offer but no sharks, no sharks had picked up the scent of the fabulous lunch that we’d placed on offer.

Then, as were chatting away discussing various topics from food preferences to shark stories a Blacktip skimmed the boat and we literally watched her take the bait! You couldn’t have planned it! TJ (The Manager of the Sharklab) started to reel the shark in whilst Jean and I prepared the equipment ready for the sharks ‘work up‘. Within a minute we managed to grasp a good grip of her dorsal fin and quickly but safely secured her to the boat.

As usual the ‘work up’ consisted of taking a DNA sample (finger nail size) from the bottom, trailing edge of her dorsal fin, a small sample from the middle edge of her dorsal fin for Stable Isotope analysis allowing scientists to investigate her diet. We also recorded her measurements which included pre-caudal, fork and her total length and lastly she was Casey tagged (National Marine Fishery Service, NMFS dart tag). Casey tags are used to externally mark individual sharks in the USA and Bahamas. Once the data is recorded all researchers/scientists send the information to the NMFS allowing the data to be centralised for analysis. Within 15 minutes our Blacktip shark was caught, ‘worked up’ and released. She swam away strong and the team swung a high five! In Bimini each year the Sharklab capture around 50 male and female blacktip sharks ranging from 100-180cm total length. Genetic samples are then analysed by the Sharklab’s collaborators at Stony Brook University (Dr. Demian Chapman, PhD Candidate Mark Bond) and preliminary findings suggest that Blacktips in Bimini are more closely related to those from Cuba and the rest of the Bahamas than Florida. The deep, fast moving gulf stream between the US and Bahamas likely acts as a barrier to gene flow preventing Blacktips from Bimini crossing and vice versa. Pretty neat!

The ‘Sharklab’ -

Now I’d like to talk a little bit about some of the BBFSF ‘Sharklab’ staff. There are SO many incredible people at the lab but I’d like to mention a few in particular.

Firstly let me introduce Dr. Tristan Guttridge. Tristan is the Sharklab Director, a leading shark scientist and a passionate behavioural ecologist. Tristan has released many quality papers published in top journals and has worked alongside a variety of top sharkie experts. He’s regularly filmed and interviewed for the likes of the BBC and well, I’m not quite sure if Tristan is scared of anything but he’s certainly not scared of sharks! Any of them! All of us shark enthusiasts love being in the water with them, but it’s as if Tristan is one of them sometimes, you see him amongst them and for some reason it just looks so natural. Lemons, Tigers, Caribbean Reefs, Hammerheads, Bulls.. The lot! I can never decide if he is a total shark lover who understands body language and gestures or if he just lacks the fear gene! Either way he is incredibly talented guy and someone I had to mention!

Next I would like to write about the French legend that is Jean- Sebastien Finger. Jean is a PhD student at the Sharklab and I can honestly say inspires me every time I’m in his presence. Imagine a guy who has a powerful beard, sorry, I mean passion for shark conservation mixed with an advanced, complex mind for science and finished off with being an approachable, honest, genuine, all round nice guy, then you can imagine Jean. Jean’s project at the Lab is focused on shark personality. He is investigating and analysing shark behaviour to show sharks do indeed have a full range of personalities. Some bold and curious as well as shy or cautious. Just like us humans sharks are diverse and unique individuals. It’s an exciting project and I have been fortunate to assist Jean with a variety of his experiments. I could totally see Jean having his own TV series as he is a cross between a ‘mad scientist’ and ‘shark whisperer’ I just know people would be intrigued, impressed and inspired by him!

So, why help?

The Sharklab has been conducting research for over 20 years and has one of the most respected and admired histories within the shark world. Last year alone the Sharklab contributed towards a number of ground-breaking and important projects such as the discovery that Lemon sharks in the Bahamas return home to pup in the very place they were born, just like Salmon or Sea Turtles. This scientific information is crucial for protecting their birthing habitat in the wild mangroves, especially when those particular mangroves face the pressures of a building development. The Sharklab also initiated a project in Florida that went on to protect Jupiter’s Lemon shark aggregation this year. An incredible result that has restricted the ‘fishing season’ allowing the mature Lemons to receive the protection they so rightly deserve during key mating months. The Sharklab has conducted such crucial research with the help and support of volunteers and the generous contributions of donations and grants. The Sharklab is a non-profit charity meaning all donations really do make a real difference and go directly in the Sharklab pot.

How you can help?

There really is a way for all of you to help, it just depends on you, how much time you have and how passionate you are!

The Sharklab accept one-off donations by cheque or via Paypal, full details can be found on their website here: Another way to help would be to raise funds on their behalf. Last year I used social media including Twitter and Facebook to raise over $500 in a week which in all honesty was fairly easy and didn’t take much of my time! We can all do our bit even from the comfort of our armchairs! If you want to get out of your armchair how about doing a sponsored run? Walk? Head shave?! Anything! Still wanting inspiration? How about donating something to the Sharklab? They use everyday things such as nails, hammers, cable ties, towels, food, pencils, pens, golf carts (!) boats (!) – You name it and I’m sure they need it! What about you? Where do you work? Could you offer them help with your skill set? Contact the lab direct and see what YOU have that they may need..

The take home message is whatever you do, do something. The Sharklab is a non-profit organisation so all donations, financial or otherwise are welcomed and you would be contributing towards fantastic, cutting edge research.

Well that’s it for another blog, I hope you enjoyed and please subscribe to this blog to keep up-to-date with the latest SNL gossip, stories and campaigns.


Chat soon everyone,

Annie :-)

Please share this blog below ? and let your shark loving friends have a read!


Hilton Hotels- The final frontier

Ok so this is just a quick blog to confirm some VERY exciting news you may or may not have heard!

Approximately 2 years ago I was told the Hilton Hotel group were selling Sharkfin dishes in their Asian hotels. I found evidence of this on their very own website, however as soon as I confronted them the Sharkfin listing was removed from their online restaurant menu. Smart move. I sent out a plea on both Twitter and Facebook for additional evidence and received a snap shot of a Hilton restaurant menu confirming Sharkfin soup was being offered as well as viewing online customer reviews.

So the long, very long boycott started… Here’s a blog of mine from July 2012! LINK: – Little did I know how long this campaign would last, and little did I know we’d win against such a big organisation 2 years later..

For 2 years I was supported by the #SharkArmy and we tweeted, emailed and called various Hilton Hotels. We hit their pockets and reputation by refusing to visit or stay at a Hilton and by promoting and advising their dirty Sharkfin secret to our friends, family and strangers asking them to support us.

Images like these hit Twitter, Facebook & Instagram and the pressure was on. We regularly ‘aggravated’ them with contact and even ran campaigns where we tweeted their followers or replied to EVERY tweet they made. We NEVER gave up.

So, 2 years on and I woke to this one morning………………………………………

Can you imagine my face????? After a little research I found an official statement from the Hilton.


I was shocked, delighted, cautious, relieved but most of all appreciative. They finally did it, they committed to going FinFree, what an amazing announcement. It truly is an amazing result as the financial loss in removing an expensive, highly demanded dish (particularly in Asia) is not something any company would accept easily. It was fantastic news.

Now I’m not saying the #SharkArmy alone won this battle, although maybe we did as no other person or company continuously confronted them the way we did..? What I do know is our continuous and relentless pressure most certainly made a difference. See the tweet pic below which was RT’d over 267 times! And there were plenty of tweets with that exposure. The Hilton would NOT have liked that attention and coverage!

Anyhow I still can’t believe it, a super chain like the Hilton following in the footsteps of the popular, luxury hotel chain Shangri-La who removed Sharkfin from their menus a few years ago. Together they are showing Asia, and the world, it’s no longer acceptable to sell or consume Sharkfin soup in this day and age. Such a positive step towards reducing demand and setting an example for others to follow.

THANK YOU HILTON. Your commitment to remove Sharkfin dishes from your menus finally shows your appreciation and understanding that our oceans sharks are in danger and that your change in practise now supports their protection by reducing demand.

.. And last but not least THANK you everyone who supported me over the years with this challenging campaign. What an unbelievable result. Well done peeps!!!!!! … Who’s next :-)

‘On ya bike’…

Annie kindly asked if I wanted to write a little something to let you all know what I’m up to. I don’t know Annie personally, just through Twitter and Facebook but her support for my charity ride has been immense. How could I possibly refuse?

Anyway, my Name is Gerrard and I Love Sharks! And I’m going to ride my bike for them……………….

Charity Ride

In April 2014 I will be riding the length of the Outer Hebrides for two worthy causes, the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation (BBFSF) aka ‘Sharklab’ and Cancer Research. I hope to raise as much money as possible for these two very deserving charities!

The Route is as follows:

  • Stage 1 *Eriskay South Uist and Benbecula.*We will start in the burial ground in Vatersay
  • Stage 2 North Uist to Berneray, & Grosebay
  • Stage 3 Grosebay to Garynahine (Lewis – near Callanish Stones)
  • Stage 4 Garynahine to the Butt of Lewis – end of ride.

It’s approximately 170 miles and 12,000ft of ascent or 274km 3658 meters BUT this does not include my navigational skills so it could be much, much longer!

I’d been thinking about doing a charity ride for a while but where, with who, and for what reason? Once I’d decided to do the ride in the Hebrides my first thought was to do it for Cancer Research, a noble charity and one which helps many people in terrible situations.

Then I had a thought. I thought of Annie from SharksNeedLove and her previous fundraising efforts for the Shaklab. Knowing my little £10 donation back in January last year helped in some way towards the Lemon sharks of Bimini, I felt immense pride knowing I had actually helped a shark, a real one, in some way!


I’ve always been crazy about sharks, I’ve read about them, watched documentaries on them and have dreamt that one day I may actually see one. Imagine that! Yes I’ve seen one or two In Melbourne’s aquarium, but does that count? I doubt they even noticed my little nod of respect towards them as I gazed at their graceful beauty cruising past my view through the glass. And anyway, seeing a shark in its natural habitat is what it’s all about. Like watching the football on the telly, it’s not the same as being there. One day.. One day.

To go on; I emailed Annie, explained my ‘light bulb’ moment and after a few emails were exchanged she put me in touch with the world famous Prof Gruber, or ‘Doc’ as he’s affectionately known! Well, he was very pleased with my chosen charities and with much enthusiasm and gratitude he also sent me the following, very relevant link I had no idea. Some people are incredible, some are off the scale!

So with two charities on my radar, my mind was set, I would ride for both causes. And guess what? Something kinda magical happened.. I’ve actually spoken to more people about sharks recently than ever before! You know the kinda conversations, “Anything exciting going on”? “Yeah, I’m doing a Charity bike ride for Cancer Research and Sharks.” “Sharks!?” “Yeah, sharks.” then I explain why…..

The magic continues; even if these people, total strangers in some instances don’t sponsor me, sharks may well pop in to their conscious or subconscious (!) minds at some point and they may well view or discuss sharks in a more positive light after recalling the conversation they had with me. Since the announcement of the ride I have seen extra ‘Likes’ on Facebook, additional RTs on Twitter and petition signatures from my friends which is just amazing! I’ve already made a small difference in educating others on the threats facing sharks and/or simply sharing the beauty of our oceans top predator.

BBFSF AKA ‘Sharklab’

With the work that non-profit organisations like the Sharklab do one day I might actually get to see a wild shark. We as shark lovers need good people like those at BBFSF to continue their research to help us understand more about them and to ultimately contribute to protecting some of the 500+ species of shark that cruise our oceans.

The Media as a whole need educating or perhaps a realisation of how they truly affect the views of the masses. People that sport fish, buy shark oils in pharmacies, buy seafood such as Tuna that has high shark bycatch rates or the obvious, consuming shark itself, all need educating and the media holds this power firming in their hands. You can only educate and inspire if you have the facts, the staff and volunteers at the Sharklab are helping to get those facts to support up-to-date research and to help protect endangered sharks such as the illusive, Great Hammerhead.

Sharks are majestic & beautiful apex predators. We need them in our oceans for many reasons. I hope that the money I raise will in some way contribute towards helping the Sharklab learn and understand a few new things about sharks, so they can continue to educate us all and help protect our finned friends!

To finish!

If you can afford to sponsor me, even a few pounds, I would be most grateful and very much appreciate ALL donations to both very deserving charities. You can find all details about the ride at Furthermore you can also locate links to additional websites which you may find useful and informative. There are even some galleries of the beautiful Hebrides!

 Thank you

I would like to finish by thanking Annie for giving me this opportunity to write to you all, and would also like to thank YOU for taking the time to read and share this blog.


#SaveSharks Chinese New Year Video!

SharksNeedLove were delighted to receive an invitation to take part in Dive Mag Indonesia’s Chinese New Year video, what an honour!!

The video was released just in time for the Chinese New Year celebrations where demand for sharkfin soup is arguably at its highest. The video shows a group of shark lovers from around the globe, including Jakarta, Bangkok and London expressing their disapproval of sharkfin food options and instead highlighting their preferred alternatives! For London it was SharksNeedLove flying the flag!


The people representing London in the video were the following:

Annie Anderson

“As the founder of SharksNeedLove I was thrilled to receive an email from the truly inspiring Riyanni Djangkaru inviting me to skype with her to discuss Dive Mag Indonesia’s latest video campaign. Once on skype the sharkie conversation flowed and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take part in spreading awareness and supporting something so close to my heart. As you all know sharks are my passion and I will DO anything I can to help educate the public in whatever WAY I can! Please help spread awareness and share the video with friends, family and complete strangers! :)

My Twitter:

Adam Stansbury

Adam in his own right is an inspiration; just read the story on his website to see what this man has been through and where his positive outlook on life has taken him. In 2006 Adam was critically ill with Ulcerative Colitus, an autoimmune disease which attacked and blocked his large intestine, resulting in him having it completely removed and rebuilt over 2 years, and 4 operations. Why is this relevant to sharks? Because Adam is a determined, passionate, ocean loving person and everyone should have someone like this fighting their corner, including our oceans sharks!

Adam said “Being part of the fitness industry means it can all too easily consume you and then when you open your eyes to the rest of the planet and the plight of some of our endangered species and the way they are treated, it truly shocks you and puts things in perspective. Sharks are an essential component to life on our planet, in and out of the ocean, so take a few minutes to remember today… Sharks Need Love!”

Would you like to know more about Adam?
Adam’s Website:
Adam’s Twitter:

Gemma Atkinson

Gemma is a ‘famous face’ here in the UK, not only for her successful modelling and acting career but for her deep rooted and passionate love for animals. Those who know Gemma know she is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to animal rights. She is loving, caring, compassionate, bold and most of all she’s not afraid to ‘say it how it is’ for those without a voice. ALL animals, including sharks are lucky to have a girl like Gemma on their side because her voice certainly speaks for those who can’t!

“I decided to get involved with this video as Annie made me aware just what was happening to our oceans sharks and it completely shocked me. I’m a huge animal lover but I’ll be the first to admit, I never really thought about sharks as I wasn’t aware of the dangers they faced. Having the knowledge now has made me determined to help stop the demand and sale of sharkfin soup. They were here before us, let’s respect that and keep them in the water where they belong and NOT on our dinner table!”

Would you like to know more about Gemma?
Gemma’s Website:
Gemma’s Twitter:


Thank you

I would like to say a HUGE thank you to Riyanni, Dive Mag Indonesia and Astri Apriyani for including us in such an exciting, fun, yet educational video. I would also like to thank both Gemma and Adam for taking part in this video. Your support is most appreciated and your voice WILL be heard! THANK YOU for helping make a difference.


It started with a tweet! – Iberostar & Holiday Check

The following blog was written by #SharkArmy member Lisa and edited by Annie.
There I was one morning searching on Twitter for shark related tweets when I came across a tweet by Carlos Gavina (Twitter user ID: @cgshark).
The tweet was a photo of a Thresher shark being served whole, on a table, in a hotel restaurant for human consumption – and what a shocking and sad photograph it was! I say was as the photo has now been removed due to the pressures of our #SharkArmy. Anyway this is how it went!

I contacted Carlos (@cgshark) requesting additional information on the photograph and was promptly sent a link to the website publicising the image. This link showed promoting the image which was on display in an Iberostar hotel in Tunisia. The photo could be found in the restaurant/buffet section for anyone to view.
So, I contacted Iberostar via Twitter and politely asked them to remove the photo. I explained how the majority of shark species were being exploited, that millions die every year and I reminded them about the toxins found in shark meat and the potential consequences this could have when consumed, especially for pregnant women. It wasn’t a surprise to me that I received no reply. A few tweets later and eventually they replied with something along the lines of This is no longer practised in our hotel”.

A positive, yet uninspiring response. Iberostar had removed shark from their menu, however the graphic photograph was still online promoting a very negative image. We weren’t finished yet!

After a little more investigation it became obvious that we were asking the wrong company to remove the image. Iberostar’s hands were tied and in fact only and the guest who posted the graphic image were the ones with the ‘power’ to remove the content. confirmed this in an email reply to me which stated “The pictures have been uploaded by one of the former guests of the below mentioned hotel. Holiday check does not delete pictures of former guests”. With the guest from Iberostar Palms Zarzis hotel untraceable we shifted our focus and put pressure on to remove the image from their website.

The graphic image was not only promoting the practice as acceptable but was also visible for children to view. The lack of warning regarding the high mercury levels found in shark meat was also a concern, especially for pregnant women who may having been viewing the image and lacking the knowledge that shark meat is in fact high in mercury (like Tuna, Marlin, Swordfish etc) and could possess a danger to their unborn baby. And we’re not even mentioning the lack of sustainability! The image needed to be removed.
In the meantime Iberostar tweeted to us and apologised for the photo confirming Iberostar would never use images such as these on its platforms. The photographs are published on unaffiliated websites and we have requested their removal”. They went on to say “It is not in keeping with our commitment to and respect for the environment” and ‘we regret this practise ever took place in our facilities, we have requested their removal’. To confirm; Iberostar themselves had requested the removal of the photo from! All we could do was wait, tweet, email and hope the photo would be taken down.

Many days later the photo was still online. The good news however is that the photo was being viewed and shared hundreds of times all over the world and the pressure on mounted. The #SharkArmy continued the pressure and it appeared everyone had something to say about such a sad and shocking photograph.

Every day I repeatedly checked to see if the photo was still there for all to view and for days, it was. Then, on October 6th 2013 it disappeared! There was no trace of the image! Neither or Iberostar confirmed the photo had been removed but it could no longer found, a true result indeed!!
To summarise; I would like to thank Iberostar for ending the sale of shark in their premises in the first instance and furthermore for supporting us on our campaign to have the photograph removed. I would also like to say a HUGE thank you to all who networked and sustained the online pressure during the weeks of conflict. It may seem like a small victory in comparison to the thousands of sharks killed every day, however this was about principle.

Removing a very negative shark image, encouraging a big company to back down and to set an example and showing the public we can make a difference together all stacks up to a positive result. This campaign provoked a debate, helped spread awareness, engaged the public and ultimately contributed to protecting one of our oceans top predators. Furthermore knowing this image is no longer available to view means the practice will not be seen as acceptable for people that may have viewed it in the future.

Great job everyone!

Greendale Farm- What actually happened

The following blog was written by #SharkArmy member Sorrell and edited by Annie.

The story started on Twitter when one of our sharkie soldiers, Laurie (@whiteshark902), alerted the #SharkArmy (@SNLSharkArmy) & myself (@Sorrellh90) to an issue via the tweetosphere.. It was a thresher shark. One of the biggest and most beautiful sharks in the British seas. Yet it was plonked on an ice bed, ready to be sliced up and dished out for human consumption. This bold, public image was mistake number one made by Greendale Farm Shop in Exeter, Devon.

Mistake number two was how they ‘sold’ this helpless creature. Claiming it was a beast. Whether or not this was meant to be a negative comment, it gets misinterpreted a lot and certainly doesn’t promote a positive ‘image’. As you’ll see below, staff members (we presume) are seen posing with another Thresher shark. One picture even showed the shark with an orange in its mouth! Bad taste? We believe so. The shark was laid out for all to see, the shark had been violated, unknowingly, and undeservedly. And this wasn’t the only one. Pictured below are a couple of staff members (again, we presume) showing off other catches, rather proudly.

Greendale Farm stated they brought the sharks as bycatch, the sharks were not targeted directly, and that they understood conservation concerns. To confirm; the main threat facing the Thresher shark is bycatch. It’s not really justifiable..

Tweets between myself and Greendale Farm Shop were pleasant, but I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. I questioned their actions in detail (which I’m not sure they liked) and also their morals. I’m sure you’ll all agree demand IS key in affecting shark sales; Sharkfin soup, shark meat, shark souvenirs, shark oils and much more could all be made redundant if demand was reduced or destroyed. Annie stated on her Facebook: ‘let fishermen waste their bait, hooks, lines, time and space on a vessel… and with no buyer at the end, let’s see how hard they look for alternative fishing method’ a point worth noting? I was promised a reply from Greendale Farm and still, some 8 weeks later I find myself still waiting.

We touched on the health implications of eating shark and from what we understood Greendale Farm were not advising customers online or in person, and in particular pregnant woman about the possible health implications of consuming shark meat. Not good. Alas, Annie is not one to hang about as we wanted answers! She started tweeting them from the @SNLSharkArmy account and her own personal account @SharksNeedLove asking others to join in and to share the Greendale Twitter and Facebook pages which showed the bold, dead shark images. Our trusty #SharkArmy hopped on board and soon Greendale were feeling the pressure. Worldwide pressure mounted with shark lovers uniting; passionate shark advocates spoke out, scuba diving communities started spreading the word, the general public voiced their opinions and even the infamous, local UK shark lover Monty Halls shared a tweet. The photo of the shark on Greendales Facebook was shared 28,000 times. Yes, 28,000 times. It went viral.

Greendale however were quick off the mark and started deleting any negative comments that was threatening the sale of their catch. We watched comments getting deleted before our very eyes and all of those commenting negatively were immediately blocked. They were defending themselves like any business would. But by deleting comments and blocking people they caused even more anger and frustration. With the pressure mounting Greendale had no choice but to delete both their Twitter and Facebook accounts. In a public statement they confirmed the reason they deactivated their accounts was due to some inappropriate comments threatening the owners and their staff’s safety at their business premises. To confirm; we watched their accounts in detail and although we cannot confirm no such threatening comments were posted we certainly did not see anything of this nature. It is not something we support.

This story however does have a happy ending! Mr Carter, the owner of Greendale Farm Shop vowed never to buy shark again, and the profits from the Thresher shark that caused upset would be donated to a marine conservation charity. Although this was a rollercoaster few days we would still like to thank Mr Carter and others at Greendale Farm Shop for making those two very positive decisions. We would also like to say a huge THANK YOU to Laurie for initiating this campaign and the #SharkArmy for their support in starting this ‘boycott’, without them this success would not have been possible.

For media coverage please view the various links below which describe this particular story in a little more detail. It’s really quite amazing the interest and exposure that was generated through an initial few tweets!

The Telegraph :

This is Cornwall:

Daily Mail:

Practical Fishing:

… and for additional coverage regarding this Greendale incident including conservation and diving websites simply explore ‘Google’ for more of the same.

Here are a few additional images that were captured during this ‘boycott’.

PIT 2013

Yup.. It’s been a while so grab a coffee this is going to be a long one! The below blog was written by myself and Antonia Ash, June 2013.

From South Africa to Brazil, from the US to the UK over to Belgium and finally France, 29 people from all over the world came together for the 19th BBFSF annual juvenile lemon shark population census in Bimini, Bahamas. Despite the blood sucking mosquitos and lightening illuminating the skies above, the crew rallied together to make PIT 2013 the year to remember.

CJ Crooks Photography

For the past 18 years the Sharklab has monitored the juvenile lemon shark population in Bimini assessing survival, growth and mating characteristics of the lemon sharks in two mangrove-fringed nursery areas: North Sound and Sharkland. PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) is a 12-night project which takes place annually in the month of June and is a little rice-grain sized microchip with a unique code which is inserted under the skin of the lemon shark. This chip represents both the literal process involved in tagging each shark as well as providing us with the name for the longest running research project the Sharklab conducts.

Every night between 5 and 7pm three net boat teams and one tagging boat team leave the Sharklab and head towards their allocated net locations in either North Sound or Sharkland. On arrival it is the tagging boats responsibility to ensure all net boats set at the same time and from that point on they must all check their nets every 15 minutes over a 12-hour period from dusk till dawn. On finding a shark in the net the team immediately remove it, record the time and location of capture and radio the information through to the tagging boat before transporting the shark for a more detailed ‘work up’. The information recorded at this stage is crucial for past and future data comparisons, for example when they are re-captured we can determine how much they’ve grown, who their siblings are (through DNA), their weight fluctuations and movements from initial capture locations.
After the long and tiring12-hour cycle and as the sun rises the net boats haul their lines and all head back to the lab for a hearty breakfast prepared by the hard working home crew. All equipment is cleaned and the team then head to bed for a 6-8 hour nap before they must wake to start the whole process again.

North Sound
The first nights fishing went down a storm with a record number of sharks caught, a total of 83 juvenile lemon sharks were transported to the tagging boat for processing. Here they were ‘worked up’ – measured, weighed, DNA and stable isotope taken and finally scanned for a PIT tag. At this stage we recorded the PIT ID for recaptures (those with an existing tag), and for those without one was inserted. Finally we recorded the umbilical scar status of all sharks <70cm. In the same manner as humans, juvenile lemon sharks are connected to their mother with an umbilical cord, we review this scar and if it is still open we know that it is a newborn that was likely born to the nursery in the past few weeks.

Our tagging and net boat teams are made up of staff and volunteers to ensure we have a mixture of experience with new faces. One of our Principle Investigator’s Rob led net boat one and for those who have worked through PIT in previous years will know this is
notoriously our busiest net: within the first 5 minutes after setting they had already caught their first shark and he was a 63cm new capture.

Each net boat aims to bring the sharks caught straight over to the tagging boat to reduce stress and on the first night of North Sound this boat was led by another of the Principle Investigators at the lab, Jean-Sebastien. The tagging team alongside Jean certainly experienced the infamous chaos of the night one tagging boat with the 83 catches; high organization and attention to detail was vital at all times, particularly through the 8pm-9pm rush when 23 sharks were worked up in 45mins.

Me taking a girth measurement

Me inserting a PIT Tag

This of course leads us back to the work of the other two nets who were themselves busy catching more juvenile lemon sharks to add to the nights count. In the end the total from net one was 36, net two fell just under with 32 and net three caught 15 which is a reflective split of what we have come to expect each individual net to catch through the labs 18 years experience of PIT. The second and third night yielded a smaller number of catches in comparison but the numbers were enough to keep the net boats on their toes.
After a nights break from gillnetting the team returned to complete the North Sound part of PIT, another three nights in the same net locations. With a decreasing number of shark captures the crew spent less time in the water catching sharks and more time on the boats making mad libs, getting to know each other and counting shooting stars. Not to put too finer point on it, the PIT crew go away with many awe inspiring memories and none can match the setting which surrounds the net boats at night: complete silence in darkness with the occasional flash of a Q-beam to remind each net boat that the other teams are close by.

CJ Crooks Photography

Of course when reminiscing upon this peaceful dreamy picture how could we forget the sudden interruption of flashing blue lights, the sound of an echoing siren and a startling spotlight shone across the astonished faces of net three by a local police officer. As you would imagine a sight to witness in the early hours, but with the get out clause ‘we’re from the sharklab,’ the officer was soon reassured that no suspicious activity was taking place and he was on his way. Over the six nights of gillnetting in the North Sound the total juvenile lemon shark count for PIT 2013 came to an impressive 120.


As the crews left for night one of Sharkland the conditions were ideal for setting the gillnets and the competition for the straightest net was on.

However as the saying, ‘the calm before the storm’ goes, within a few hours the crew found themselves snuggled up hiding under transport boxes with bolts of lightening landing within a stones throw. Despite the relentless rain, 35 sharks were still captured and the crews soldiered through the conditions ensuring they met their 15 minute check window. Unfortunately with conditions deteriorating by the minute the decision was made to haul all lines four hours ahead of schedule, with the time to be made up over the coming nights.

Antonia and Lindsay snuggled under a transport box!

As the nights spent in Sharkland went on the count was lower than in previous years with night two totaling 13 and night three falling just under with 12. Despite the low shark count the PIT crew still had some interesting captures with net three finding the largest shark caught in their gillnet during the whole of PIT 2013, measuring 116cm. Net one also witnessed a returnee caught only the week before in North Sound which had escaped from the behavioral holding pens. Amongst all the shark action and the delirium of the night, in between checks net one, led by new assistant manager David, found themselves stalking what they believed to be a four meter sawfish which in the bright lights of the Q beam transformed into a lonely nurse shark in search of a mate. In an attempt to rescue the team from the nights delirium the annual fancy dress food run arrived to a PIT crew of confused faces as they witnessed those on home duty parading themselves round the boat in extremely minimal cowgirl outfits.

In the final three nights of Sharkland the total count for night four was 17, night five slightly lower with 13 and the final night tapered off with a low of 5; this brought the total count in Sharkland to 95 captures.

PIT 2013 has been a strenuous but rewarding 12 nights for all involved – a special experience for all to take away.

Me with one of the many juvenile Lemon sharks

Shannon and I taking weight

CJ Crooks Photography

Holland and Barrett- Success!

Just a quick blog to keep you all posted on another online victory!

It was recently brought to my attention that ‘Holland and Barrett’ (A chain of health food shops with over 700 stores in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Singapore and Malta) were selling shark oil capsules which some (uneducated) humans take as a supplement similar to fish oils. To cut a long story short, they weren’t. They stopped quite some time ago due to campaign pressure and through the realisation that selling shark capsules were supporting an industry they no longer wished to be associated with- Go H&B!

HOWEVER whilst researching this topic I did discover numerous shark recipes in the cooking section of the Holland and Barrett website (Sad face). As always I immediately ‘screen shot’ the recipes and contacted Holland and Barrett via their Twitter account.

As usual in the first instance I was polite, unbiased and calm! IT PAID OFF!
H&B replied within minutes stating they would look into the recipes and will feedback to me in due course. I thanked them and was reassured I’d hear from them soon….
Sure enough a few weeks later they were in touch and.. with good news! They removed ALL shark recipes from their website!! I was amazed and grateful for their cooperation and their wonderful communication. I mean they have over 11,000 followers and yet they kept a record of me so they could reply with the good news. Jawsome.
Another example of an online success and this time the #SharkArmy wasn’t needed I simply sent them a tweet and the company resolved it! Efficient and as simple as that! Result!

So I would like to thank Holland and Barrett for not only removing the recipes but for their speed in which they did and for their complete professionalism with how they handled me and the situation. Fantastic! Holland and Barrett are certainly a company others could learn a trick or two from.. If only all companies were as helpful and understanding as these guys.

The moral of this story? Keeping calm and not going in ‘guns blazing’ sometimes pays off!

Stop…….. Hammertime

In February this year I was fortunate enough to head back over to Bimini to help support the Sharklab with a few projects, to indulge in some relaxation and to dive with sharks! (Why not right?).

Whilst at the lab one of the PhD students Jean Finger hoped to capture Lemon sharks for his project on personality traits. He decided to place a gillnet in a popular ‘Hot spot’ hoping that we could capture some sharks for his short term behavioural trials. So with the sun shining I headed out with a crew on one of the labs skiffs to assist with a days gillnetting! As mentioned previously the Sharklab check their nets every 15 minutes to release any bycatch such as crabs, rays and other fish! and with the net set it was a waiting game. Sitting on a boat for hours in 28 degree heat with no shade can be both relaxing (For those who desire a tan!) and draining (For those who get hot and bothered!) Drinking water, sunscreen and a hat were total necessities! 5 long hours we waited with not a single shark in sight! We did catch two VERY cute turtles though which we released a short distance away from the net. So an unsuccessful day which meant Jean would head back out within the week to try again. Needle in a haystack? Not entirely, these juvenile Lemon sharks have quite a small home range when young so they rarely venture too far :)

One of my other tasks while at the lab was to assist with data processing and input. You may remember in my previous blog how the lab take small fin clips for DNA and stable isotope analysis when ‘Working up’ sharks? (If not then go look at my previous blog! That‘s an order :) All data taken needs to be entered into the labs database so every clip (a finger nail size piece of shark fin) is placed in a small bag with a piece of paper stating crucial information such as shark species, length, sex, location and date of capture etc. Samples are refrigerated before being shipped to New York and Canada for analysis by collaborators (Dr. Demian Chapman & Dr. Nigel Hussey) As you can imagine this is quite a smelly job but someone had to do it right? Can you believe the Sharklab has collected  over 4000 DNA samples from Lemon sharks, that’s a serious Lemon shark family tree expanding by the day!

Ok so I guess you want to hear about the Hammerheads right? Well, how can I possibly explain how it feels to see the odd looking, yet extremely impressive Great Hammerhead swimming towards you for the first time? Ok, well picture the scene.. You’re snorkelling in 5m of crystal clear water, patiently waiting. Looking. Waiting. Looking. Waiting. Looking. You see something.. It looks big. Your heart rate increases and you’re flooded with mixed emotions.. Oh, it’s just a Nurse shark (and I LOVE Nurse sharks!)

You see another Nurse, and then another, and another! … You’re still waiting for ‘The one’. You’ve been in the water for over an hour now, you’re getting cold and your eyes are flicking left to right, left to right as you concentrate on any movement in the distance. Then you see her. A huge ~3.3m Great Hammerhead. She glides in effortlessly and the Nurse sharks are dwarfed by her presence. The dorsal fin of a Great Hammerhead is MASSIVE and that along with her huge ’Hammer’ demands your attention. Everything blends into a blur as your focus is solely on her. She’s beautiful. She moves so graciously and smoothly turns and manoeuvres on the sandy bottom almost like she was dancing for us. It couldn’t get any better right?

Wrong, another Hammer turns up. This one’s a little shy, he stays for 15 minutes and leaves after his curiosity is satisfied.

The big female however stays for over an hour allowing us to free-dive down to the bottom where she accepts us and lets us take a closer look. She even stuck around after the Director at the station Dr. Tristan Guttridge tagged her with a external dart tag! The Sharklab have now tagged 28 Great Hammerheads in the past 4 yrs – one returning from 2.5 years ago! Using this unique location they have plans for tracking these sharks to see if they travel to Florida or other Bahamian Islands. Such information is crucial to help conserve and manage this endangered and enigmatic species! I felt blessed that these sharks let us share their space in such peace. It truly was a magical a experience.

So how do I follow that? I simply can’t! After a day like that a few drinks, a good dinner and a game of ‘Ring toss’ (The only game at the local bar!) doesn’t really cut it! But it did because the amount of adrenaline exerted on the dive meant we all slept well that night!

Well that’s it for now.. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any other experiences or sharkie related topics. Remember to follow me on Twitter or Facebook to keep up-to-date with live feeds! :) Shark love! Annie

Amazon Success

Ok so I thought I would just update you all on a recent Amazon boycott I started (& won!) a few weeks ago.

 It was brought to my attention by one of my Twitter followers, Gerrard Redican (@oldskoolg07) that Media Storehouse (Via Amazon) were selling a puzzle with an image of a Hammerhead shark being finned as the main focus, yes you read that correctly!

After a little investigation I found numerous puzzles showing sharks being finned and in addition to this there were puzzles displaying dried sharkfins. WHY anyone would want to buy these is beyond me but how Amazon had these graphic and disturbing images on sale to the public was a joke! Children searching puzzles could easily view these images on what a parent would probably consider a safe website.

So.. The boycott began.

Rule number one on starting a boycott? Take photographs of ‘The problem’ because if the ‘Offender’ removes the text, image etc you’ll have no evidence (See previous Hilton blog about why this is so important).

I contacted Amazon and received generic replies; so we got to work. I tweeted a series of images and text to various Amazon accounts whilst the #SharkArmy went to work tweeting to Amazon, leaving negative ‘Product reviews’ on relevant puzzles, writing email complaints, calling them and generally causing a stir. We started bombarding them.

With no movement from Amazon I contacted where we got even more momentum behind the boycott.

With 1,000s of people now in the loop Amazon backed down and silently removed all puzzles. They never once admitted responsibility or that they had a connection with the puzzles (Hence taking photos as rule number 1) and they never apologised; very typical of a large corporate company such as Amazon. I guess that doesn’t matter right? We won? Very true… However Amazon are a HUGE company, they can not monitor everything being sold on their ‘Marketplace’ and we may see these puzzles again.. and if we do we’ll have everything at the ready! Including evidence that they’d sold them previously and that they removed them previously which should make it all the easier in getting them removed a second time, if applicable.

Take home message?

I was notified about these puzzles, started a full boycott, and won. You too could do something like this too, even from your armchair :)

Does it really help sharks?

Well let’s think about how many people saw my tweets, your tweets, your followers tweets, their followers tweets.. Then add our Facebook reach! How many people searched #Amazon and saw our boycott? Then add the Amazon users/buyers that saw the negative products reviews, the forum thread about the puzzles…. That’s a huge outreach to the general public, including those who may’ve been totally unaware that ‘shark finning’ even exists. Then add the people at Amazon that saw our emails, took our calls… How many people will all of the above talk to? How many people will they then talk to? I believe one of our biggest challenges in saving sharks is the lack of worldwide education and the internet opens up a whole host of countries to engage. Changing the general public’s perception of sharks and simply showing people what is happening to one the oceans top predators is not only addictive it is now easily accessible with the help of the world wide web.

By starting something like this we reach a LOT of people who may want to learn more about shark finning? They may wish to help? They may help next time? And let’s not forget we won!!!!!!! How empowering is it that a few ‘Shark Huggers’ got a huge company like Amazon to do what we asked? That’s a pretty cool victory and something we should all be very proud of. Every success no matter how small is still that, a success and something we did together. We just need to keep chipping away.

Anyhow.. On to the next :) Perhaps we should go after Media Storehouse? Don’t wait for someone else to start a boycott you could lead the way with this one…..

Well done everyone involved, together we DO make a difference. FACT