WHOI Teams up With Local Fishermen to Track Blue, Mako Sharks

COURTESY OF THE ATLANTIC WHITE SHARK CONSERVANCY. Great white sharks were tagged off the coast of Chatham on Tuesday, August 26.


WOODS HOLE – While great white sharks have been getting most of the attention in recent years,there are two other species which keep scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) preoccupied.

Blue and Mako sharks, smaller than their counterparts, are regularly observed by fishermen off Cape waters at this time of year.

But according to WHOI student and researcher Camrin Braun, very little is known about these sharks or the open ocean they flock to come colder weather.

“We know almost nothing about the open ocean, maybe their behaviors out there can help us understand what’s out there,” he said.

His method includes tagging at least 15 blue and mako sharks before the fall. They’ll be trackable on the website www.osearch.com, where anyone can view their movements.

Braun is also tagging the more mature individuals to see where they go when they reproduce.

While blue shark population has been historically high, Braun said they’ve recently become a commodity at the Hong Kong fish trade market, where nearly half of all shark fins sold come from these creatures.

He said they’ve been caught in the by-catch for swordfish and tuna fishermen. But when they catch sharks, Braun said they typically keep them for the parts that are such commodities abroad.

Some local fishermen are helping Braun and WHOI in their efforts to tag the sharks this season.

Braun said a better understanding of these creatures’ habits is direly needed. In one previous study, he found that a group born at the same time in the same area migrated to totally different parts of the ocean.

If Braun can determine why, he said it could help us understand one of the most crucial parts of the ecosystem.

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