Snorkelers rescue two nurse sharks

Saba University School of Medicine four semester students Chelsea Beveridge and Lara Kirkpatrick, along with Lara’s husband Scott and members of Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) saved two nurse sharks that were trapped inside a lobster trap off Saba’s coast Friday afternoon.

Dahlia M. Hassell and Jelle van der Velde of Saba Conservation Foundation and Hannah Tannah of Broadreach USA opening the trap.
Dahlia M. Hassell and Jelle van der Velde of Saba Conservation Foundation and Hannah Tannah of Broadreach USA opening the trap.

Beveridge and the Kirckpatricks take study breaks on Friday afternoons and go snorkelling off Fort Bay. The three are experienced snorkelers and strong swimmers and take all of the appropriate safety precautions, which unfortunately did not include carrying pliers.

Friday afternoon the water was a bit choppy and the weather overcast, but the three were intent on their weekly swim. They headed out on their usual route, out of the harbour and west in the shallows off Tent Reef. The visibility was good despite the rough water and they soon came across a curious Hawksbill sea turtle as well as the usual fish and scenery they enjoy on their weekly swim.

After about 20 minutes in the water, they saw a lobster trap, but something seemed odd. Upon closer inspection there were two nurse sharks trapped inside. The sharks were small adults approximately three and four feet long and after probably sneaking in for a meal of lobster were unable to escape the trap.

The snorkelers knew this could be a death sentence to the sharks. Saba was recently designated a Shark Sanctuary, something Saba is very proud of, and although all three are animal lovers and would have done whatever it took to save the sharks, this even gave them extra motivation.

They repeatedly dove down to the trap trying to find a release latch or door, but with no success. They knew they needed help and swam back in rough seas as quickly as possible knowing SCF in Fort Bay would be able to assist them.

Dahlia M. Hassell and Jelle van der Velde, with the help of Hannah Tannah of Broadreach USA joined the three snorkelers and swam to the location of the trap. The three carefully worked to open one end of the trap, but the sharks were very scared and retreated to the other end. They then opened another exit and finally encouraged the larger shark to make its escape.

The smaller shark again retreated to the back of the trap, but the trio finally were able to encourage it out of the trap and it too departed at high speed into the depths.

The lobster trap was then fully resealed and the six swimmers returned to Fort Bay with the sharks rescued and the lobster trap intact.

“We’ve shared the water with so many beautiful creatures. It was an amazing experience to be able to help save these sharks and probably the highlight of our time in the water on Saba,” the three Med School snorkelers said. They were also very appreciative of the quick response and “amazing work by Dahlia, Jelle and Hannah,” they said.

The Daily Herald.

The two nurse sharks inside the lobster trap.
The two nurse sharks inside the lobster trap.
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