When is the research expedition?
The expedition begins on January 16, 2017 and ends on February 5, 2017. The expedition will kick off with education and outreach events on January 16-17 in Jacksonville, FL, and fishing will begin on February 18.
Which institutions will be participating and/or receiving samples from this expedition?
The expedition will include scientists from the 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.
Why is OCEARCH returning to the Lowcountry region?
The data we’ve collected over the years, shows that our mature Lowcountry white sharks and most of our mature Cape Cod white sharks have differing paths. Our multiinstitutional science team is returning to Lowcountry to gather data that will help us understand habitat use of the Lowcountry White Shark vs. the Cape Cod White Shark.
Can you describe your process for tagging a shark?
Sharks are caught from tenders using handlines and are guided by hand in the water on and off the lift. After capture, sharks are brought to the submerged platform of the M/V OCEARCH vessel and the platform is raised. Once the sharks are restrained and hoses of water have been set to enable the flow of oxygen, they are measured. SPOT and acoustic tags are attached.
What samples will you collect from the sharks?
Once caught, the sharks will be measured, sexed and tissue, blood, fin clips, and parasites samples are collected. Small fin clips are removed with a pair of scissors; a muscle sample is removed from the flank with a 8mm biopsy punch and two blood samples are taken from the caudal vein.
Will the sample collection and studies impact the shark’s health?
While the tagging method, which has been used on sharks and other species for over a half century may cause some level of brief discomfort, there is no scientific evidence that it impacts their behavior or survival post-release. In fact, data from the Global Shark Tracker provides strong evidence that the animals tagged using this method show long-term survival and long-distance migrations indicative of normal function and reproductive cycles.
What studies will you run from the samples?
Scientists will assess the physiological effects of capture stress in the white shark, including characterizing post release recovery; assess the reproductive condition, reproductive cycle, gestation period, and fecundity of white sharks in the Atlantic Ocean; understand parasite species presence, abundance, and infection sites in white sharks; perform comparative analysis of DNA sequence variation in the white shark; study contaminants of emerging concern in white sharks from US Atlantic waters, including flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, and other anthropogenic pollutants released into aquatic environments; develop values for trace minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids for white sharks; and identifying mutualistic interactions between bacteria and host organisms.
What does the tracking data from the Global Shark Tracker tell us about sharks?
The data allows us to see the range of shark movements in different parts of the world - their migration patterns - and helps us uncover the areas in need of protection. The tracking data allows studies such as the examination of fine and broad-scale movements, habitat use, site fidelity, residency, and feeding behavior of white sharks. The data we’ve enabled so far, has allowed scientists to figure out the mating and breeding sites of the species on the west coast of Mexico – Guadalupe Island. Scientists have also documented the first migration of Great White Sharks to the gulf, and the mid-Atlantic ridge.
What happens to the data you’ve collected?
The data is shared in an open source environment with collaborating institutions that utilize it to conduct studies that are eventually published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The papers, which can take 2-5 years to publish, are used to assist in policy decisions.
Who supports the expedition?
SeaWorld, Costa Sunglasses, YETI Coolers, Southern Tide, SAFE Boats, Contender, and Landry’s support the expedition.