Ocearch researchers are preparing to set sail for Australia, embarking on an ambitious expedition that will see them tagging tiger sharks, revealing the predators’ movements in a way readily available to the public for the first time.
The voyage will consist of two legs, according to WA Today, which will occur in Western Australia and Queensland. Involving researchers from Tokyo, Argentina, and the U.S., the project will also include local scientists from the University of Queensland, the University of Western Australia, James Cook University and the University of Tasmania.
Ocearch hopes to outfit as many as 40 tiger sharks with tracking devices, using SPOT tags for 20 of them. While these mechanisms have been affixed to juvenile sharks in Australia in the past, it is believed that the current expedition marks the first time they will be employed on mature sharks in the region. The tags will relay 24/7 tracking information for the tiger sharks, which will in turn be made public by Ocearch.
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The sharks will be caught by handline before they are moved onto a custom lift astride the Ocearch ship that raises them from the water for a precious 15 minutes of work by scientists. Dr. Adam Barnett of James Cook University observed that the Ocearch expedition represents a rare opportunity for Australian shark researchers.
“We have the chance to tag more tiger sharks with Ocearch satellite technology over a period of a few weeks than our team has in the past 14 years in Queensland waters,” he noted. “Having hands-on, safe access to live mature tiger sharks will be a significant boost to research, allowing us to conduct projects that are undoable in the water, providing data we could never have dreamed of achieving on our own. Researchers in this area are crying out for funding so to have access to the resources of this caliber is the best start to the New Year.”
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Ocearch founder Chris Fischer observed that the data collected by his company had previously influenced policy makers in their decisions regarding shark populations. As the Inquisitr recently reported, the shark policy of Western Australia has proven deeply controversial among many researchers, prompting some to assert that they will withhold their tracking data from the state’s government.
“The new data will help provide Australia with a better understanding of when, how and why tiger sharks forage, particularly near public beaches,” Fischer observed. “This project is about delivering previously unattainable data to public safety officials and conservation managers. It will be a privilege to serve the Australian people and your tiger shark research community. It’s our goal to create the most inclusive, open sourced shark project with the Australian people in history.”
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Though white sharks have recently made headlines in Australia, as the Guardian reports, Fischer observed that Ocearch will be unable to tag the protected species on this expedition, their time monopolized by the tiger sharks.
“We have offered assistance to tag great whites and have not heard back from CSIRO or federal government,” he said. “You have to get approval from CSIRO if you want work with white sharks.”
Ocearch will launch its tiger shark expedition to the land down under at the end of January.
[Image: Ocearch via WA Today]