Big Tracks, Surprising Findings from 2015 Shark Tracking Project

February 19, 2016 at 1:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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GHRI 2015 All TrackingBy Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer

scocking@guyharveyoutpost.com

The yellow, green, pink, and white dots and blobs on this Google Earth graphic cover such a large portion of the globe that it is difficult to show the entire picture.  And that means a heck of a lot to marine scientists like Drs. Guy Harvey, Mahmood Shivji, and Brad Wetherbee of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University near Fort Lauderdale.

The dots and globs represent the paths of some 40 sharks rigged with satellite tags that the scientists tracked in 2015:  three tiger sharks (green); 20 makos (yellow); seven oceanic whitetips (pink); and one dusky, four hammerheads and a sixgill (white and barely visible off Boca Grande, FL and Bermuda).

“Pretty impressive.  A huge part of the ocean,” noted Wetherbee of the sharks’ movements.

Satellite tags, which cost upwards of $4,000 apiece, are technology’s most precise method of monitoring the animals’ movements minute to minute.  Funded by the non-profit Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the transmitters are affixed to the sharks’ dorsal fin, sending their locations to a satellite that beams the information to the researchers’ computers.  Wetherbee then plots that information on Google Maps.

What this worldwide splash of color represents is a blueprint for protecting sharks from habitat loss and overfishing. And the tracking data has turned a few shark theories on their heads.

According to Wetherbee, tiger sharks– previously believed to be a coastal species– are nothing of the kind.  The data shows they spend half their time in the open ocean thousands of miles from shore, but in winter show a snowbird-like affinity for coral reefs in the Caribbean and Bahamas.  One tiger nicknamed Harry Lindo covered 27,000 miles– the longest distance ever tracked for the species.

Mako sharks seem to stick to the open ocean– cruising the edge of the Continental Shelf off the U.S. east coast then making long trips north to New England and Canada.

The oceanic whitetips tend to wander around aimlessly, though whatever they’re doing isn’t aimless to them– sort of like a bee flying over fields and alighting on several flowers in one field but totally ignoring those in another.

The makos and whitetips were named competitors in the Great Shark Race of 2015 created by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and Research Institute to encourage businesses and individuals to sponsor satellite tags.  The shark covering the greatest distance in six months– a shortfin mako named Ebenezer that swam 7,387 miles–was declared the winner.  Ebenezer– named by Ebenezer Thomas Primary School in Tortola, British Virgin Islands– was sponsored by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin United.  It was tagged off Ocean City, Md. on May 27, made it to Newfoundland in the allotted time, and is still transmitting.

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Unlike those free-swimming makos and whitetips, Wetherbee noted that hammerheads tend to stick to coastlines in the U.S. and avoid long-distance travel.  Sixgills, he said, stay in deep water and don’t go very far while duskys seem attached to certain sites, but still may travel a few hundred miles.

“There are sharks without a country, moving through 10 to 15 different countries,” Wetherbee said. “They are all over the place.”

The research has important implications for shark management:  knowing what countries’ waters the sharks use suggests who is responsible for managing that population and where the animals are most likely to be harvested by fishers.

“Shark populations have been overfished quite a bit.  Managing these populations is going to take international cooperation,” Wetherbee said.

Mako sharks, while not classified as overfished, could still be in trouble as they are heavily targeted by commercial longliners and recreational anglers in the U.S. and elsewhere.

“Makos are in a lot of areas with tuna and swordfish,” Wetherbee said.  “Everybody is after these makos because they are good to eat.”

Indeed, 13 of the 49 makos tagged by the GHRI scientists over the past four years have been caught and killed by commercial fishers.  The tiger sharks, fortunately, escaped those gauntlets.

Wetherbee, Harvey and Shivji plan more shark-tagging expeditions in 2016, hoping to fit another 40 to 50 animals with satellite transmitters.

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Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/.  For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing.  She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.

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Nova Southeastern University & Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts Present Blazing Mako Tournament & Festival

November 20, 2015 at 5:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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BlazMako

Event Combines Fishing, Conservation, Research & Marine Science Scholarships

FORT LAUDERDALE-DAVIE, Fla. – What do you get when you combine world-class fishing, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and world-renowned conservationist and artist Guy Harvey? A one-of-a-kind marine conservation festival and tournament in the Florida Keys!

NSU is proud to be part of the Blazing Mako Tournament & Festival, to be held in the sportfishing capital of the world – Islamorada – in the Florida Keys. The three-day event is scheduled for June 16-19 2016, with management provided by Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts. Formerly named the Fort Lauderdale Billfish Tournament, the event has been moved to the historic Islander Resort for 2016, a Guy Harvey Outpost destination in Islamorada.

The event will include a premier, not-for-profit fishing tournament; innovative art exhibits featuring recycled materials, conservation organization displays and local vendors, all showcased in a 100 tent “Conchservation Village; cyber on-the-water release documentation for research using the IGHOfish App; and watersport demonstrations and competitions.

While there will be a fishing tournament as part of the event, like other Guy Harvey Outpost Bonfire series events, there is much more to the Blazing Mako Tournament & Festival. Community engagement is at the heart of the weekend’s activities. The event will also aid in raising funds for marine sciences scholarships at the NSU’ Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, which is home to the Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center.

“Once again NSU and Guy Harvey are teaming up to help today’s students become tomorrow’s marine researchers and scientists,” said Richard Dodge, Ph.D., Dean of NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography. “We have a long-standing relationship with Dr. Harvey, and I am continually amazed at how much he wants to help students follow their dreams. This tournament promises to be fun, while at the same time continuing to add to Dr. Harvey’s legacy at NSU.”

The Blazing Mako Tournament & Festival, managed by Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts, has targeted a fundraising goal of $100,000.  NSU’s Halmos College of National Sciences and Oceanography, home to the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI), the Center of Excellence in Coral Reef Ecosystem Research and the Save Our Seas Shark Centre, will administer scholarship funds donated through the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF).

“This will be an event as much as a fishing tournament,” said Mark Ellert, president of Fort Lauderdale-based Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts.  “Like our other Bonfire series tournaments in the Bahamas, community engagement is a key and we have planned quite a weekend of activities that will stage an innovative ‘Conchservation’ Village to highlight ‘trash-to-treasure’ art exhibits and conservation efforts in the Florida Keys, live music, a trivia event and beach and wastersport competitions, a Rum Village and Kids Pier Fishing Tournament, fishing seminars and our traditional burning sculpture bonfire—this time a 15’ mako shark design beachside at the Islander Resort.”

The bonfire sculptures themselves have a conservation theme given that they are created out of recycled metal by various local artists.  Each sculpture is designed with a specific fish species unique to each destination. Well known Islamorada artist Pasta Pantaleo will design the Blazing Mako sculpture for the tournament and festival. Pantaleo, recognized around the world as a gamefish artist, operates a popular gallery, Pasta Pantaleo’s Signature Gallery, at mile marker 81.5.

The Blazing Mako tournament, named for NSU’s mascot — the mako shark — will encompass an inshore and offshore division. Corporate team registration (offshore) for the non-profit tournament is $5,000 per team (six anglers).  Inshore registration is also available for $2,500 (three anglers).  Larger boats (26’ and up) will be accommodated by the Post Card Inn Marina and smaller (25’ or less) by the Islander Bayside Townhomes. Internationally renowned sculptor Kent Ullberg, who designed the mako sculpture at the NSU main campus, has been commissioned to create a similarly designed perpetual trophy for the tournament.

Ellert said more than 100 vendor tents will be onsite along with fishing seminars provided by  professional and local guides, and free downloads of the iGHOFish app powered by iAngler that will allow anglers to log their catches, which can be used a valuable information for fisheries management.  In the case of the Blazing Mako tournament, the IGHOFish app will be used in documenting inshore and billfish catches along with photos and measurement before releasing the catches.

For more information on the Blazing Mako Tournament & Festival please visit www.blazingmako.com

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