Worldwide Shark Mission – Chum Trip with a Seal Predation and Overall Experience with Oceans Research

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One of our many white shark chum trips resulted in us witnessing an incredible natural predation in close proximity of the research boat. One of the photography interns had come along with us to get some high quality shots with his camera while us interns carried out our usual chumming trip duties – writing down the data collected by the field specialists, chumming with sardines, and taking dorsal fin shots with the camera. We saw plenty of very active sharks some of which were trying their best to get the tuna head bait.

Jamie Halkyard

A very memorable moment during the trip was when a large shark between 3.5-4m in length did its best to obtain the tethered tuna head bait by suddenly shooting up vertically and in front of Justin (the skipper) and as we were standing behind him, we could see the snout of the shark pop up over his head while he was bait roping. It really gave us some perspective about just how massive and powerful these sharks are. We then heard a splash on the starboard side and looked over to see what it was. All of the sudden we saw a shark move up towards the surface with a seal in its mouth – there was so much blood and for a second we all just stood there watching, stunned – luckily Justin reminded us to grab our cameras and we were able to get shots with the surrounding blood in the water. It was all over very quickly and lots of gulls had already started moving in to pick up any scraps left over.

Jamie Halkyard

While it was a very dramatic event to witness, it really made me appreciate the power of these sharks and reminded me of their role in Mossel Bay as predators of Cape fur seals that inhabit seal island. We were in their territory attempting to learn more about them. While we were able to appreciate their beauty from the boat, they were still efficient apex predators.

Jamie Halkyard

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my Oceans Research internship in Mossel Bay, South Africa. It was really nice having so many trips out on the boat for chum trips, seal surveys, and sea fishing and also participating in important maintenance and projects at the aquarium. We also gained experience on an intertidal project where we learnt how to identify various species, helped scan the bay for dolphins and whales during the ‘land dolphin’ surveys and also the incredible opportunity to observe and assist with sevengill tagging. We were also given several lectures on hammerhead genetics, GIS and photo ID and also had plenty of experience entering data following chum trips.

Jamie Halkyard

I really was amazed at how much experience you gain and also the amount of information you learn in just one month during the internship. During our month (September 2015), we managed to see and gain experience with six species of shark (great whites, pyjama catsharks, leopard catsharks, sevengill sharks, smoothhound sharks and puffadder shysharks) , two species of dolphin (bottlenose and humpbacks), two whale species (humpback and southern right), Cape fur seals and plenty of intertidal organisms. After gaining such a myriad of skills with so many different marine species, I knew I had made the right decision in taking the time to travel and learn about the creatures that had fascinated me as I was growing up and learning about in lectures at university. It really is an amazing privilege to get up close and help out with contributing to marine research at such a beautiful, accessible place as Mossel Bay, South Africa.

Jamie Halkyard

To find out more about Oceans Research internships head over to http://www.oceans-campus.com/programs/oceans-research-internship/

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About Author

My name is Jamie and I am a 24 year old who was born and raised in New Zealand. Growing up, I was always running around exploring rockpools and the coastlines when I could. I was lucky enough that my love of the oceans was nurtured through various school camps and field trips exploring the Ohope rockpools and sampled the intertidal zone at Goat Island marine reserve. My love of marine life and desire to learn more led me to study at the University of Auckland where I obtained a Bachelor of Science majoring in biological science and specialising in marine science. Towards the end of my degree, however, I realised that I wanted to gain more knowledge and practical experience with a variety of shark species before heading into post-graduate level study. I had also never ventured out of New Zealand so decided it was time to travel! My love of sharks and drive to help with their conservation has led me to travel while gaining valuable experience through research internships. From South Africa, working with white sharks, sevengills and benthic catsharks to the Bahamas where I’m currently working with lemon sharks, tiger sharks, nurse sharks and reef sharks. I’ve decided to share my travel experiences while following my dream of getting close to and learning about as many shark species as possible all around the world!

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