TP_410478_LEIV_11_SHARK.JPG

There's a shark to catch

There's a shark to catch

The rolling, unsteady deck doesn't seem to bother the scientist, standing there at the edge of the ship's outer deck.

Behind him, students who haven't found their sea legs stumble every which way, but he remains focused on the fishing line that plunges into the depths. His eyes scan back and forth, back and forth, then suddenly, pause.

"There's a shark on the line," Jack Morris says, and the marine biologist's words and pointed finger set off a cheer and a scramble to action.

There's a shark to catch.

Researchers and students from the New College of Florida, Eckerd College and Mote Marine Laboratory spent a week aboard the Florida Institute of Oceanography's research vessel, the R/V Bellows, catching, tagging and releasing a variety of shark species along the coast of Florida. Funded by the FIO's state-funded ship time grant, the trip gave students a rare opportunity to participate in every aspect of research, including baiting lines, recording data and even hauling in sharks.

Morris, senior biologist at the Mote Marine Laboratory, said the trackers fitted on the sharks would help efforts to study their coastal population and movements. "The work we're doing here lends itself to our conservation efforts," Morris said. "Without knowing the population size of the species we're dealing with, it's really impossible to truly conserve the species in general."