■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE – There’s a new Mote boat in town, and it’s a gorgeous 46-footer. Built by George Luzier, a classic boatbuilder from Sarasota, the boat will be employed to further Mote Marine research in Charlotte Harbor and the Boca Grande area.
At a reception held at The Innlet Docks off 12th Street on the island, Mote President and CEO Dr. Michael Crosby said it was exciting to have a new way to do aquatic research around the island, considering the first Mote Marine facility was founded just off-island, in Cape Haze.
The boat, named Thunder, was donated to Mote by Russ and Ginny Gifford of Sarasota. While it was originally built in 1978 for John Henry Wilbanks, the Gifford owned the boat since 1984.
Luzier also built the first Mote research boat, named the R/V Rhincodon, back in the 1960s.
Researchers aboard Thunder are excited to get to work, and plan on researching the relationship between tarpon, bull sharks and hammerheads (other than the obvious … dinner). According to Dr. Robert Hueter, director for the Center for Shark Research, said they plan on doing more tagging, both conventional and satellite, to follow behavior patterns that exist between sharks and tarpon. They are looking, in particular, to understand numbers, sizes and sexes of two two species, as well as to determine when the fish leave the pass and where they go.
Expect to see Thunder out in the Pass frequently this tarpon season.