CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, but the Texas Shark Rodeo has been going on for several months, and it's not stopping any time soon.
Around 380 anglers, who might normally kill the sharks they catch, are instead snapping photos and then releasing them.
And that's not all.
Some anglers place tags on their sharks and take tissue samples.
It all earns the anglers points towards the competition with an individual and a team earning bragging rights as shark rodeo champions at the end of the year.
The samples, photos, and data from tracking the tags goes to the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi where researchers use it to monitor the health of sharks and their populations.
"This is an invaluable partnership," post doctoral researcher Kesley Banks said. "We could not have gotten this amount of data in this time frame without these guys."
The Texas Shark Rodeo has been an annual event since 2014.
With the participating anglers catching and releasing sharks instead of killing them, Banks says they've already seen increases in shark populations in the Gulf of Mexico.
“They’re already out there fishing, and so they’ve decided to help science and learn some more information about the Texas shark population,” she said.
Anglers cannot use motorized vehicles or vessels and must do all of their fishing from the shore.
There's no prize money, and they only get a small amount of training on attaching the tag to the shark and obtaining the tissue sample.
One angler, who's not part of the rodeo, thinks the competition and its contribution to science is a win-win.
“I think it’s great," John Conti said. "You know, I don’t think a lot of people really understand about the shark. It’s good that we get education, and we’re doing the right thing for sure.”