Most people flee a shark in the sea, but First Mate Elliot Sudal on S/Y Orion searched for one each day of the Antigua show. Known as the Nantucket shark wrestler, Sudal and Capt. Scott Fratcher took the 15-foot inflatable dinghy each day to see if they could catch and return with one for a pen located at Falmouth Harbour Marina.
Sudal tags sharks for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and has been featured on YouTube, National Geographic, Good Morning America, CNN, Fox and Friends, and other media sources.
“I have always fished and caught sharks,” he said. “One day I got one on the line and had to wrestle it about 20 feet out on a sandbar.”
That video went viral on the Internet.
“First I caught little sharks accidentally and decided to learn about them,” he said. “That first time I realized it was too big for the line, I didn’t know what to expect. Now I know that some are docile and some pull backward.”
He has wrestled with bull, lemon and hammerhead sharks (six hammerheads in two months in Florida) to name a few. His interest led him to college for environmental science and biology and he worked with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services with the Youth Conservation Corp.
“Now, we do it on charters,” Sudal said. “Imagine, I pulled a bull shark up on the back of a $10 million yacht.”
He said it surprises people that sharks are everywhere, whether you are in Florida, the Caribbean or the Bahamas.
“But out of about 70-100 shark attacks a year worldwide, only one quarter are fatal,” he said. “When it’s murky, they can’t see and think you’re bait.”
He said he is not the only person wrestling sharks, and if anyone catches one with a yellow plastic tag by the dorsal fin, instructions are in the capsule on how to report the information to NOAA.
At $5,000 a tag, the data is vital to track the health and growth of shark populations. It is really about raising awareness of shark conservation, Sudal said.
Sudal and Fratcher generally go out at night and use cameras to document their dinghy adventures. They tried each day to catch one for the pen they built next to Orion’s berth at the marina.
But with so much rain, the runoff and cold water kept sharks away. Better shark hunting next time.