Satellite tags are one of the most reliable ways to study marine life because you can track the animal and its surroundings while it’s deep below the surface without having to spend days at sea. The tags themselves are extremely valuable, not just for the information they hold, but for the technology itself, which can cost as much as $4,000 per tag. When satellite-tagged animals end up on fishing boats, those tags can be lost for good.
One oceanographic research group in South Florida lost seven satellite transmitter tagged sharks — representing 20 percent of the team’s tagged sharks — to fishing in the last two years alone.
After a juvenile male shortfin mako shark was caught by a swordfish longliner in the Grand Banks and a 150-pound blue marlin was caught by fishermen off Cuba, both of which were being monitored by scientists at the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, GHRI is calling on fishermen “to do one of two things,” explained Dr. Mahmood Shivji, director of GHRI and Save Our Seas Shark Research Center.
“If it’s alive and healthy, please return the animal as quickly as possible so it can continue its travels and provide important scientific data. If it is dead, please retrieve the tag and return it if possible,” Dr. Shivji said.
Both the mako and the marlin were dead, but the fishermen who caught them returned the tags to the researchers and received rewards for doing so.
The satellite tags will have a serial number and contact information. By using this information, the fishermen will be able to get in contact with GHRI to make arrangements for the return of the tag and the reward.
The Guy Harvey Research Institute is current tracking marlins, sailfish, and dozens of sharks. You can follow their movements in real-time on GHRI’s interactive website.
Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.