Shark researcher Richard Fitzpatrick has been in the business of catching and tagging sharks for research purposes for almost 20 years. Methods for catching the sharks have been refined since those first times when Richard would "jump into the water with the shark and tie a rope around its tail by hand - that was really full on" admits Fitzpatrick. To make catching the shark less stressful for the animal (and for Fitzpatrick), Richard developed the "shark claw". Here is how it works:
The shark is lured to the side of the boat which carries the small research team. As the shark approaches, a 'catcher' leans out and brings the claw down on the sharks tail from the safe distance that a long pole provides. The claw has a snap-lock mechanism which slips over the tail and then locks in place. The pole then detatches from the claw which is now fastened around the tail of the shark, but the claw remains tethered to a large float via some tough rope. The shark will swim off but quickly becomes tired thanks to the drag created by the float which will immobilise the shark within a minute. Researchers can then easily bring the shark along side the boat and can attach the tracking device, all without having to get in the water themselves and causing no stress to the animal.
Once the claw is removed the shark will quickly recover and the team will instantly begin tracking the movement of the sharks via satellite updates.
"When I tell people what I do (to tag the sharks) they think I am either mad or stupid", grins Fitzpatrick. "But the truth is that we need to protect sharks to preserve these marine ecosystems; I am simply doing whatever I can to help make that a reality."