The unique conservation effort will see the sharks tracked by satellite tag, with the predator traveling the farthest declared the winner.

Great Shark Race: Sir Richard Branson Joins The Race

Sir Richard Branson has thrown his support behind the Great Shark Race, joining the competition and calling on other individuals and businesses to get involved and sponsor the unique conservation effort.

The Great Shark Race is the brainchild of Dr. Guy Harvey and his foundation, in partnership with the Guy Harvey Research Institute and Nova Southeastern University. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the competition will feature two divisions of sharks, both shortfin makos and oceanic whitetips, and is set to begin in April. Each shark will be fitted with a satellite tag, and the predator that swims the farthest in a six-month-period will be declared the winner, gaining its sponsor a fishing vacation to the Florida keys.

As CBS Miami points out, the race is an innovative way to direct attention toward not only the distances the sharks swim, but the conservation challenges the sharks face. Both species are considered threatened, with oceanic whitetips in particular danger in Atlantic waters.

“This is a great way for people or corporations to get directly involved with cutting-edge shark research,” Harvey noted. “Plus, participants can promote their support and have bragging rights as family, friends and business associates follow their own shark online.”

Branson, meanwhile, has also backed the Caribbean Challenge Initiative, according to Look To The Stars, a program with the stated goal of fostering legislative protection for sharks in all Caribbean nations. At this time, the Bahamas, Honduras, the BVI, and the Cayman Islands are the only nations in the region which currently have legislation protecting sharks in place.

Both species of shark have been the focus of a long term study by the Guy Harvey Research Institute. According to Mahmood Shivji, a professor and director of the institute, both species are known to travel great distances, though the particulars of their migratory patterns remain a mystery.

“We want to have some fun, but even more importantly use the race to bring added awareness to the plight of these magnificent animals,” he said. “It’s vital that we learn the migratory patterns and other aspects of these animals’ lives so we can ensure they survive and thrive for years to come.”

Anyone who wishes to follow Branson’s lead and sponsor a shark can do so at the Great Shark Race website or Guy Harvey’s website ahead of the event’s April 2 start.

[Image: Nova Southeastern University via CBS Miami]