Using satellites to determine the where, when and why of shark travels
Most of the world’s overfished sharks are large species that can, and often do, move extensively in space and time. Researching these movements is key to providing information not only about the basic biology of sharks and how they use the ocean, but also about where and when they may be most susceptible to fishing pressure. Understanding the movements of sharks, including their migratory patterns, is also important for predicting how they may respond to shifts in their physical environment, including climate change. The development of increasingly sophisticated animal-tracking instruments affords us an exceptional look into the long-distance and long-term movements of sharks in both horizontal and vertical dimensions.
The SOSF SRC is working closely with the Guy Harvey Research Institute to uncover the secret lives of sharks as they wander the oceans. Our researchers attach different types of electronic tracking tags to large pelagic sharks and follow their movements, in many cases in near real-time, via information received from the tags as they report to orbiting satellites. Sharks of current research focus are the shortfin mako, tiger and oceanic whitetip – all species of conservation and management concern. The data being collected reveal unprecedented information about the migration patterns of these large, highly mobile species and demonstrate that these animals have a very finely tuned sense of space and time as they swim thousands of kilometres in the ocean.
The tracks of all these sharks can be followed on an interactive website at:
Lead researchers: Derek Burkholder, Jeremy Vaudo