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Connecting The Dots - An exciting discovery thanks to Photography and Social Media - By Chelle Blais

Social media certainly has its positives and its negatives, but one amazing thing about it is the ability to create connections and incredible stories like this one!

Late in 2023, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a photo by Katie Sandidge of Rayna O’Nan and a great hammerhead shark while freediving in Jupiter, FL. I have been keeping track of our Bimini Great Hammerhead ID catalog, and instantly recognized the shark in Rayna’s photo, but.. it couldn’t be.. this particular shark was back in Bimini already... 

[Photo by Katie Sandidge of Rayna O'Nan with a familiar looking great hammerhead shark]

We have noted in our acoustic tag/receiver data that our tagged Bimini sharks do go past Jupiter, FL on their migration route, but we’ve never had any photo evidence of our ID'd sharks being seen on Florida shark dives. I excitedly messaged Rayna and Katie asking them if they could share the date and location of the dive with this particular shark, and then anxiously waited for their replies.

While I waited I went through my recent hammerhead photos - specifically of a well known & acoustically tagged shark who had arrived back to Bimini this season with some damage to her dorsal fin. After comparing a ton of little details, I was feeling absolutely certain this was the same shark.

[Photo by Chelle Blais of the hammerhead in question..]

[Comparing the photos looking for the shark's unique fin notches]

Finally, Rayna got back to me and shared the location and date (and even the time, awesome!!) as well as more photos to confirm this shark’s identity. It was 100%, no doubt about it, SELENE!! She had joined a dive in Jupiter on her way back home after her annual migration - just 10 days before she was first sighted back in Bimini for the season! 

To our knowledge, this is the first time there has been an absolute confirmation of a Bimini Hammerhead on a Florida shark dive! How insanely cool is that?! Shark related ecotourim is a huge economic diver in The Bahamas, bringing in over $115 million dollars to the country annually. People come to Bimini from all over the globe to see these sharks, and Selene has been a regular star since she first arrived in 2015. This is just one more reason to protect these highly migratory animals. Great hammerheads are prohibited to kill while in Florida, however just 3 miles off shore in US Federal waters they are NOT protected and can be killed/harvested. To say we are happy to see Selene in Bimini again this year is an understatement, and it's even more exciting to have shared this incredible shark with our friends diving in Florida too!

Photography is already a wonderful way to create and share stories, but had it not been for the post on social media, this story would never have come together! HUGE thank you to Rayna and Katie for sharing their photos and dive information to help me connect the dots! Check out their Instagram pages: @oceanraysphotography & @katiedid__it

[Photo by Chelle Blais of Selene the great hammerhead]

Check out our Great Hammerhead Conservation work HERE.


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