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Laura Klappenbach

Tracking Whitetip Sharks

By February 22, 2013

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Scientists have discovered that oceanic whitetip sharks frequently swim through a wider area of open ocean than previously thought. Since these endangered sharks pass through international waters, shark conservation efforts are dependent upon the cooperation of several countries.

In May 2011, members of a research team led by Luch Howy-Jordan of Microwave Telemetry Incorporated, attached GPS devices to ten adult oceanic whitetip sharks off the coast of Cat Island in the Bahamas. They followed the sharks as they swam for intervals of time up to 245 days. The tracking devices gathered data about the depth the sharks swam at, the water temperature and the shar's location. After a set amount of time, the tags detached from the sharks and send the data to satellites.

Scientists found that some of the sharks they tracked swam almost 2,000 kilometers from the location where they were first tagged. All of the tagged sharks returned to the Bahamas after a few months of tracking.

Oceanic whitetip sharks are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. The species has long been hunted for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a delicacy in China. Although the sharks in the waters around the Bahamas are not hunted as intensely as in other parts of the world, they still face threats from bycatch by commercial fishing activities.

Photo © Lance Jordan / Microwave Telemetry Inc.

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