The Department of Environment offered a $200 reward for anyone who located a satellite tag that dislodged from a Caribbean reef shark off Little Cayman on Thursday night, but the tag was found in the end by one of the department’s own officers.
According to the DoE, the tag “popped off” the shark on Thursday night. The tags are designed to eventually release from the sharks and float ashore.
The DoE said in a Facebook posting, “If we get it back, it means we are getting a lot of detailed information and are able to potentially redeploy the tag on another Caribbean reef shark.”
The black GPS tag, which allows for the tracking of a shark over a wide geographic area and a long period of time, was found by DoE conservation officer Mike Guderian on a beach along the south side of the island on Friday morning.
The DoE’s Shark Project Officer Johanna Kohler was sent the last recorded coordinates of the tag and she forwarded the longitude and latitude information to a number of people on Little Cayman, including Guderian.
“I got a WhatsApp around 9:30am from Johanna. She WhatsApped several of us on Little. I responded, saying I’d go and have a quick look now,” said Guderian by phone from Little Cayman a few hours after finding the tag.
“I put the coordinates into my handheld GPS,” he said. “It was surprising. I thought that the tag would have come further west from the coordinates. Another couple of people who’d also gotten the information were there searching too. I started to look and went about a kilometre to the west of the coordinates. Then I came back to where I started from and headed east.
“I got well past the coordinates that were given to us, and that’s where I found the tag, right among the roots of the mangroves, in the sand.”
He added, “I was afraid that it would be buried under the sargassum and we would never find it, but lo and behold, after walking about in waist-deep [water] for half an hour, I found it.”
Shark Conservation Cayman, a collaboration between the DoE and Marine Conservation International, has been tagging sharks in an effort to better understand their behaviour. Since the project started a decade ago, 66 sharks have been tagged, according to the DoE.