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Catch A Tagged Shark, Win Money
Terri Behling, Mote Marine Laboratory

** The next time you are fishing and catch a shark, don’t be surprised to find a tag near its first dorsal fin. Since 1991, Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research (CSR) shark program has tagged over 11,000 sharks of 16 species including blacktips, bulls, blacknose, Atlantic sharpnose and hammerheads.

Researchers gain valuable information from these tags. “The information gives us vital clues to the migration, reproduction and life history of sharks,” explains Dr. Robert Hueter, Director of Mote’s Center for Shark Research.

When anglers recapture a tagged shark and call the Laboratory, they are asked a number of questions about the shark and its capture, ultimately revealing secrets about the fish’s history and biology since being tagged. Fishermen receive a letter of thanks with information about the shark, an official shark tagger’s hat, and their name is entered in an annual lottery drawing with a cash prize of $300.

This year’s winner is Captain Skip Nielsen from Islamorada, Florida. He caught a lemon shark on June 22 near Nine Mile Bank in the Florida Keys with one of Mote’s orange plastic fin tags on it. The shark was four feet in length and approximately 40-45 pounds. It was tagged on March 26 by CSR staff fishing for sawfish. Nielsen cut off the tag prior to releasing the shark back in the water.

Nielsen was a professional offshore fishing guide for 29 years. For the last three years, he has been a back-bay professional guide. “Catch-and-release shark fishing has become a great sport in recent years,” he said.

Fishermen are asked to keep a sharp eye out for tagged sharks because the tags can be overlooked due to marine algae growing on the tag. The yellow or orange plastic tags have Mote’s information printed on them and are attached externally near the shark’s first dorsal fin.

In addition to the plastic tags, Mote is deploying sophisticated electronic tags on a few select sharks. These tags are about six inches in length and look like a hand-held microphone. If recovered, it’s important for the fisherman to keep the entire device and contact Mote as soon as possible. Returned satellite tags could result in a reward of up to $1,000.

For the plastic tags, any fishermen catching a tagged shark are asked to either cut off and retain the tag or simply return the tag number, leaving the tag intact and releasing the fish. Send the tag to Mote’s Center for Shark Research, Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34236. Phone numbers are 941-388-4441 or 1-800-691-MOTE. Anglers should include their name, address and phone number; date and location of the capture; total length of the shark (measured or estimated); weight of the shark (if taken); and whether the shark was kept or released.

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