Fort Myers, Florida-Sitting in the harbor off the coast of Sanibel Island is the vessel Ocean and its crew the Shark Men, from the National Geographic show by the same name. The crew just spent a few days studying bull sharks with Mote Marine scientists off Boca Grande. The crew is taking a break off Sanibel Island before heading to its next mission at the Panama Canal and Galapagos Islands.
"We're bringing sharks into people's houses bringing awareness. What is happening on a global scale is a catastrophe," says Chris Fischer, owner of the Ocean and creator of Shark Men.
Four years ago professional fisherman Chris Fischer bought the 125 foot long Ocean vessel and set sail with leading scientists to better understand the ocean's giants.
"We demystify the shark by understanding its life can lead to less fear the Jaws vibe," says Fischer.
On National Geographic's Shark Men the crew travels the globe, captures a shark, tags and releases it to track its migratory cycle.
Ship captain Brett McBride leads the mission. "It's an amazing experience to get next to a Great White shark, it's a small Orca," says McBride. Using bait McBride finds a healthy shark and lures him to the ship and the crew hooks the shark onto the cradle. McBride says, "The whole battle is a heavy dose of testosterone catching this big shark. Once we get it on the deck everything changes now you go into a nurturing mode."
The ship has a forklift that lifts up above the center of the ship over the rail and into the water. The cradle sits just below the water level and can hold up to 70-thousand pounds. Once the shark is on the ships cradle or lift the clock starts ticking crews have 15 minutes.
"Make sure the hose is in the shark's mouth and water on back to keep him cool and it's all for not if the shark dies," says McBride.
Scientists take blood samples, test DNA and the shark's reproduction system. They tag the shark's dorsal fin with a satellite tag it beams a signal to a science lab showing the shark's location every time it surfaces for the next 5 years.
"We've unlocked cycle Great White. We know where they are breeding; where they are feeding, giving birth and their nurseries. We've rewritten what people thought they knew about the Great White," says McBride.
Fischer, McBride and the other Shark Men are all about science and research they are also about conservation. Up to 90 million sharks are killed each year for one thing their fins.
Shark fining is popular off the coast of China and Taiwan it's a delicacy. "One shark dies every 2.2 second for a bowl of soup. We're compromising the balance of the ocean for a bowl of soup that's a bad trade," says Fischer.
Shark fining is a problem that often disappears with the tide. Fischer says the ocean is littered with finless dead sharks. Fischer says, "It's out of sight out of mind. What we are trying to do using National Geographic's 300 countries and 30 languages make sure no longer out of sight. We can shine light on the issue. What happens to sharks affect global policy we want to make a global change."
Fischer invests about 2 million dollars each year to fund the expeditions. Besides having his own TV production company to produce Shark Men, Fischer also has a nonprofit group called OCEARCH dedicated to the protection and management of the world's marine resources. OCEARCH focuses on four areas; research, education/awareness, sustainability and marine debris. www.ocearch.org/aboutus.html
The Shark Men will be chatting live on the Shark Men Face book page after their show airs Saturday night at 10pm on National Geographic.