(LiveScience) For scientist Neil Hammerschlag, it was just another Sunday. He was out cruising the reefs near the Florida Keys, hunting for sharks — not as trophies, but for research aimed at keeping them out of display cases and in the water. In many places, these iconic predators are disappearing.

A research assistant professor at the University of Miami, and the director of its R. J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, Hammerschlag spends every other weekend in southern Florida dragging baited, shark-safe lines behind a boat, hoping one of his research subjects will take a bite.

When he and his team catch one, they outfit the shark with either a satellite tag or an ID tag, take tiny samples of muscle and fin and a vial’s worth of blood (they check to see if the shark is pregnant), then send the shark on its way. The whole process takes about five minutes.

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