Chagos Conservation Trust

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Chasing Sharks

Matt GollockSkip to Creole

As I’ve grown older, 3.45 AM is a time I distantly remember coming home at, as a younger man, after cutting a dash across some salubrious dance floor in a garishly-patterned shirt. The idea of getting up at this time was completely alien to me until this week, and the idea of doing so with an excited spring in my step, even more so. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not at my sparkling best at this time in the morning – my fellow shark tagger, Brazilian Gabe Vianna and I manage a grunt to one another that transcends all languages and says ‘my god, it’s early’. But we are here, in the Chagos MPA, looking for sharks to attach satellite tags to, and this is pretty much my dream project, so frankly, I don’t care what time I have to be up at.
The aim of this project is to monitor the movement of oceanic shark species such as blue, oceanic white-tips and silky sharks to understand how they behave in relation to the protection that is now afforded to the marine life of Chagos. Once the tags are attached they will collect location, depth and water temperature data before releasing from the shark three months later and sending the information, via satellite, to my laptop in London. Amazing stuff. This information will help us to determine the level of protection that large marine protected areas are providing to these species, and species like them that are under pressure from human activities, particularly fisheries – all of the species we have chosen to study were caught as by-catch in the tuna fisheries that used to exist in Chagos waters.
Once we have set our scientific fishing gear, myself, Gabe and the rest of our crew – Pete and Dave act as shark wranglers, and Dayal is our driver – get into a small speedboat and monitor the 20 hooks we’ve set. Making sure the fish is not stressed more than necessary is our number one priority and so we want to be ready to leap into action should we find a shark so we can release it, tagged, as quickly as we can.
We have spent a few days refining our technique, but it was all worth it when we caught our first shark. It was on the first hook of the longline that we had set and we could see it clearly. Gabe, our experienced shark tagger, quickly got us organised with roles to play to ensure both ourselves and the shark were going to be safe. We started to reel it in. As it got nearer to the surface we could see the distinctive stripes of a tiger shark – this was going to be a baptism of fire for the team as they have the potential to be quite aggressive, but I think most of us would be with a hook in our mouth and four slightly nervous-looking scientists staring down at us. Dave pulled the line in bringing the fish to the surface, and Gabe quickly put a rope round the tail so Pete could hold the fish in place. I slipped a canvas stretcher under the shark so we could stop it from thrashing, and Gabe took measurements – it was a 2m juvenile male – and a small tissue sample from the fin for genetic analysis. Unfortunately, tiger sharks were not a priority species for us so we made the difficult decision to let it go untagged, even though the data we could have collected from it would have been enormously informative, especially having caught it far offshore, something we thought was unusual for juveniles of this species that’s normally associated with coastal habitats. The shark swam off looking a bit miffed, but in good shape, thanks to the fantastic work of the team.
So we are continuing to fish, and are even more excited now we have had a taste of handling these amazing creatures. More as it happens…
Matt ‘Hemmingway’ Gollock

Pe rod reken
La ki mon pli gran, 3.45 AM i en ler ki mon vagman rapel mon pe retourn lakaz, koman en zenn garson, apre ki monn montre mon talan danse dan mon semiz diferan patern. Sa lide pou lev sa ler in totalman drol pou mwan ziska sa semenn, e lide pou fer li avek en gou ti osi totalman drol. Pa pran mwan mal, mon pa entyerman mon menm a sa ler gran maten- mon koleg brezilyen Gabe Vianna ek mwan i zis kapab fer bann son avek kanmarad e dir ‘mon dye i granmaten’. Me nou la, dan rezerv marine Chagos, pe rod reken pou atas ban marker satelit lo zot, e sa i vreman mon rev proze, alors onnetman, mon pa veye ki ler mon bezwen leve.
Rezon sa proze i pou moniter mouvman bann lespes reken dan gran fon losean parey bann reken ble, oseanik pwen blan ek reken silki pou pli konpran ki manyer zot ete an relasyon avek sa proteksyon ki annan dan Chagos pou bann lavi marin. Ler sa marker i gany atase zot pou kolekte lokasyon, fonder ek tanperatir delo avan ki zot detase avek sa reken dan twa mwan pli tar e avoy sa bann lenformasyon par satelit, lo mon konpiter an Lon. Sa lenformasyon pou ed nou determin sa kali proteksyon ki sa gran proteksyon marin pe donn sa bann lespes marin, e lespes parey zot ki anba presyon par bann aktivite dimoun, partikilyerman lapes– tou sa bann lespes ki noun swazir pou apran pli lola i bann ki gany atrape e afekte par bann lapes ton ki ti egziste dan lanmer Chagos.
Ler noun aranz nou bann lekipman lapes siantifik, mon avek Gabe e larestan nou bann dimoun- Pete ek Dave i akt koman bann atraper reken, ek Dayal i nou drayver – nou antre dan en pti speedboat e moniter sa 20 lanmson ki noun large. Pou fersir sa reken pa strese plis ki i devret i nou priorite nimero enn alors nou nou met nou pare pou deswit pran aksyon si nou vwar en reken pou nou kapab larg li, marke, pli vit posib.
Noun pas detwa zour pou aranz nou bann teknik, e i ti volapenn ler nou ti atrap nou premye reken. I ti lo premye lanmson lo en gran lanir ki noun mete pou nou vwar pli byen. Gabe, ki pli eksperyanse pou mark reken, i toudswit organiz nou avek diferan rol pou fersir ki nou menm avek sa reken i ok. Nou komans redi li obor bato. Ler i vin pli pre avek sirfas nou kapab vwar son kouler bann bar pli nwar lo son lekor ki en reken tigre – sa ti pou parey en batenm dife pou nou tim koman sa bann reken i annan potansyal pou vin tre agresiv, me mon kwar ki nenport antre nou si nou ti annan en lanmeson dan nou labous ek 4 siantis ki get nerve pe get ou. Dave i redir lanir pou anmenn li lo sirfas, e Gabe i vitman met en lakord otour son lake pou Pete kapab tenir sa reken an plas. Mon met en canvas platform anba sa reken pou nou kapab anpes plis fer dimal son lekor, e Gabe i pran son meziraz – i ti en 2m longer reken adolesan mal – e en pti sanp son lapo lo son lezel po analiz ban zenetik. Malerezman, reken tigre i pa en lespes an priyorite pou nou alors nou pran sa desizyon pou les li ale san mark li, menm si sa bann lenformasyon ki nou ti pou kapab kolekte avek li ti pou kapab tre enformativ, espesyalman akoz noun atrap li lwen avek zil, i en keksoz ki nou ti kwar i drol pou banns a lespes ki ankor pti ki normalman asosye avek labita kostal. Sa reken apre naze ler noun larg li, a bon form, mersi pou sa fantastic tim.
Alors nou pe kontinyen pou lapes, e menm pli eksite la ki noun gany gou koman pou fer avek sa bann kreatir tre manifik.
Matt ‘Hemmingway’ Gollock