Researchers returning to tag sharks in the Lowcountry | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | January 11, 2018 2:52 pm
OCEARCH is back in the Lowcountry – Florida, Georgia, South Carolina – after tagging two white and two tiger sharks in the area last year.
“We’re returning to the Lowcountry because our sharks led us here,” Chris Fischer, OCEARCH founding chairman and Expedition Leader, said. Previous data collected shows that OCEARCH’s mature Lowcountry white sharks and most of OCEARCH’s mature Cape Cod white sharks have differing paths. The team is returning to gather data that will help researchers understand the habitat use of the Lowcountry White Shark vs. the Cape Cod White Shark.
“Two of our mature animals, Lydia and Hilton, tagged in the Southeast spent significant time in Canadian Atlantic waters, while most of our cape Cod sharks have not, with some exceptions, but those exceptions were immature animals,” Dr. Hueter, Director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory, said. “Because of the overwintering importance of the Southeast for the entire Northwest Atlantic population, and because our mature animals tagged there went to Canada, it’s important we follow up on previous expeditions and try to get more tags out in the Southeast, especially on mature animals.”
OCEARCH tagged Hilton, its first mature male who is currently pinging off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, in the area last year. In total, the research group has caught, satellite-tagged, and tracked 33 great white sharks in the Atlantic since 2012, including five mature white sharks; however, scientists need a larger sample size. “More movement data, especially on mature animals, remains the key to a comprehensive understanding of the species’ habitat use,” Dr. Bryan Franks, expedition lead scientist and Associate Professor of Marine Science at Jacksonville University, said. “More data that will allow researchers to hypothesize about the differences, if there are any, between the Lowcountry White Shark and the Cape Cod White Shark.”
The team of shark researchers and fishermen will begin their research on January 18 off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla., before heading to Hilton Head, as part of Expedition Lowcountry II. OCEARCH will host 11 researchers, from 11 various institutions, aboard its M/V OCEARCH research vessel as part of its mission to enable data collection by providing collaborating researchers and institutions unprecedented access to mature marine animals.
There are also 11 other researchers from 10 institutions who will receive the biological samples from each animal tagged, allowing them to analyze the results from the blood, mucus, muscle, parasite, genetic, and other samples collected. Researchers will use these samples to conduct several studies, including understanding the sharks’ reproductive condition.
The expedition will include scientists from Jacksonville University, Mote Marine Laboratory, Adventure Aquarium, Georgia Aquarium, Georgia Southern University, University of South Carolina-Beaufort, WCS’ New York Aquarium, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of Massachusetts, University of North Florida, Auburn University, College of Charleston, University of Florida, Cape Canaveral Scientific, South Eastern Zoological Alliance for Reproductive Conservation, VithajSafari, Long Island Shark Collaboration, Georgia Institute of Technology, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Windsor University, and Shedd Aquarium.
All sharks will be fitted with a satellite transmitter tag, PSAT tag, and an acoustic tag. As the sharks’ fins break the surface, the satellite tag will transmit their locations. You can follow the sharks tagged during Expedition Lowcountry II by accessing the near-real time, free online Global Shark Tracker or by downloading the Global Shark Tracker App available for Apple and Android platforms.