Within just minutes of dumping a shot of secret sauce (mackerel oil) overboard to add to our chum slick, the first blue shark made a pass by the boat to say hello. And I can assure you, they were much more prepared for us this past weekend, than we were for them…
The two hour ride out to Cox’s Ledge, some 35 miles offshore from Pt. Judith, Rhode Island, was rather uneventful. However, as the boat came to a stop, the swell, coupled with low-sitting haze and stench of chum had many on board regretting their decision to sit out there in blue water for the day and wait around for sharks. Even I was queasy…
Within a short amount of time, we had several blue sharks circling the cage, which was our cue to jump on in. Throughout the day, we had as many as nine relatively large blue sharks in the water…while difficult to make an accurate scientific statement, I am hopeful that this is a testament to improvements in the blue shark population. We tagged eight sharks for research purposes, and were once again able to respectfully observe and appreciate this marvelous species.
So why blue sharks? Well, they are perhaps the single most transient species in the world’s oceans. Blues tagged here in New England have turned up in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. Unlike most species which are more or less geographically isolated, these sharks are truly ocean-going – thus making them one of the most influential animal species on this planet given their predatory nature. In addition, these are among the most beautiful fish in the sea. The hues of blue across their backs that serve as camouflage in deep water cannot be replicated. It is a blue that becomes ‘alive’.
Given the current environmental crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as other issues in the world, knowing that there are single species that routinely utilize the vast expanses of the ocean – an embodying habitat without borders – should heighten our concern for the global implications of regional disasters. The ocean truly is the tie that binds.
Bottom line is that we will never appreciate that which we do not understand. We will never understand what we do not know…and there is so, so much more for us to learn right here about our own planet. Hopefully, we as a civilization can take more strides towards discovery, than towards disaster.
For more about blue sharks:
:: award winning 2008 article in RI Monthly Magazine
:: short artistic film by Ocean Opportunity