The little Lemons of Curieuse Island
This Monday was a very unforgettable day for me – we went to do the Sicklefin Lemon shark survey. For most of us, this was the first time we got to see and hold the baby lemon shark. We woke up around 4am and took a hike in the dark to the mangroves, which are often referred to as their nursery site. I didn’t know what to expect in the beginning, since the last group that went didn’t catch anything. However, we got super lucky this time and caught seven baby lemon sharks in total. It was quite the team effort; everyone was excited and focused, waiting for the baby lemon sharks to show up.
The baby lemon shark is surprisingly calm when I hold it and looks super adorable! Their skin feels a little rough, like sandpaper. It is a grey color on the top, with a white belly. They will grow more yellow when they are bigger just like a lemon in color, which I guess is where they get their name. They have very small, sharp teeth. We were able to scan them and inject a PIT tag in them if they didn’t already have one, and we weighed them and measured their length. We find out their sex by looking for claspers, which only the males have, and observed their umbilical scars to get an idea of how old they are. We also look to see if there are any scars or injuries on their bodies and check their health status. We have to do all these steps very quickly and make sure they are in the water all the time, so they don’t feel uncomfortable.
Finally, I had a chance to release a baby lemon shark. I needed to hold it gently, putting it under the water and walking with it a little bit to where it was to be released. This also lets it get used to being back in the sea, and he started to pretend he was swimming on his own, moving his tail back and forth. Then with a gentle push, I let go and he just swam off slowly by himself. I was wondering how his life would be afterwards. He needs to be very strong to face a lot of obstacles in his life. He needs to adapt to natural environmental changes, he needs to compete for enough food, he needs to avoid fishermen hunting for his meat, fins and skin, as well as other bigger sharks that would eat him. When fully grown, as the top predator in the ocean, he will play an extremely vital role in his marine ecosystem, and indirectly affect humans and the world as a whole. Unfortunately, most sharks are hugely threatened with extinction. I wonder, when will people realize how important sharks are, and stop hurting them?
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