On June 15 and 16, the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) team joined several other partners at the Ocean City Shark Tournament at the OC Fishing Center in west Ocean City, Maryland.
Mark Sampson, the tournament director and a partner and friend of the National Aquarium, stresses the importance of conservation and reminds participants each year of safe fishing practices. Every year prior to the tournament, Mark provides a clinic at the OC Fishing Center to discuss shark identification, safe handling, release, and rigging techniques.
The MARP team pulled out all the stops, giving visitors access to walk through a 56-foot inflatable replica of a sei whale. These whales are seen in our waters off the coast of Maryland, as they use our warmer waters as a thoroughfare. Our volunteers constructed this amazing whale with the help of Damon Pla, who has graciously donated his time and artistic expertise to these beautiful artwork displays and the skeleton along the inside of the ever-popular sei whale.
Visitors of all ages took the opportunity to learn more about these animals, as well as others, when they ventured into the “belly” of the whale. There was not one person who did not come out smiling, and with a little bit more knowledge about this particular species.
The tournament was a success, even though the weather was not very cooperative while fishermen were out on the water. On Friday, one boat braved the heavy winds and high seas until they decided to turn back around at noon. They did turn in a release report, however, which included a sandbar and spinner shark.
On Saturday, eight out of 11 boats went out into the 15-20-knot winds and 5-foot-high waves. Early morning showed promise, with several spinner sharks being recorded and released, and by the end of the day, seven teams had caught and released 22 sharks.
Overall, 44 sharks were caught and released, which included six mako, 13 sandbar or dusky, 21 spinner, two hammerhead, and two tiger; none of which were brought in for weigh-in at the dock. The only fish brought in to the docks throughout the entire tournament were three bluefish.
Although this is our first year to join the festivities at the OC Shark Tournament, we do hope that this continues for future years!