New Crittercam Project Kicks Off in Puerto Rico

By Jean-Paul Polo

From Sept 17th until October 1st 2012 the National Geographic Crittercam program joined marine biologist Sam Friedrichs and headed down to Club Nautico de San Juan on the Atlantic coast of Puerto Rico. Our mission is to try and deploy Crittecrams on Blue Marlin during the 59th International Billfish Tournament, a catch-and-release event held here every year. Anglers love this location because catching Billfish takes place only a mile offshore.

Jaime Harless (in yellow gloves) and the Hook Up's wireman handle a marlin as the angler Sjon Harless looks on and Sam Friedrichs jumps in to make sure everything is a-ok. Photo by Jean-Paul Polo.


Trolling besides the participating boats on the 31 foot “Hook Up” gave us access to the different billfish being caught and released throughout the tournament. Once a boat had securely caught a billfish and had it next to their boat, we backed our boat next to them. Using a system that required tossing a tennis ball with our line attached to it we were able to safely and securely transfer the billfish to our line. The fish was quickly reeled in next to our boat where we attached the Crittercam.

Sjon Harless, Jaime Harless and the Hook Up's wireman.
Sam swims up for a closer look at the fish and its new hardware. Photo by Jean-Paul Polo.


Miguel Donato, Tournament Director speaks at Club Nautico de San Juan. Photo Jean-Paul Polo.

Tournament Director Miguel Donato monitored the process from a spotter boat. The end result was six successful deployments in four days of tournament action.

With the support of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company a film crew from National Geographic together with local filmmakers documented the tournament action and the Crittercam deployments. The hope is to continue filming in different countries to produce a documentary on these majestic fish.



Josean Rivera (film crew), Rafael Leyva (cinematographer), JP Polo (producer), Mariela Ferrer (film crew), Ricky Ponce de Leon (film crew). Photo by Oscar Morales.


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Meet the Author
Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.