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August 4, 2013

Website takes Shark Week to new depths

Tracking website allows real-time shark watching.

By Ben Sullivan

This year’s Shark Week has been taken to the next level of interactivity with a new website where you can track sharks around the world.

The interactive website from Nova Southeastern University’s Guy Harvey Research Institute is tracking 18 sharks (makos and oceanic whitetips), and their wanderings can be followed in near real time on the website, revealing information about their movements.

Mahmood Shivji, director of NSU’s Guy Harvey Research Institute and the Save Our Seas Shark Research Center, said: "This multi-species shark tracking site provides an eye-opening perspective on the secret pathways and enormous distances that some sharks can cover during their seasonal migrations.

"Understanding where these animals migrate to and when they do it is crucial to their conservation," says Guy Harvey, Ph.D. "The Guy Harvey Research Institute is a worldwide leader in shark tagging and research. Dr. Shivji and his GHRI team have been able to record some of the longest tracks in the modern history of shark research."

The longest recorded track is a Tiger Shark affectionately referred to as Harry Lindo. Harry was tagged in Bermuda in 2009 and tracked for more than 3 years, providing an unprecedented long-term and detailed view of its migrations. During that time, Harry covered a remarkable distance of over 27,000 miles.

The NSU/GHRI shark tagging program, which began in 2009, has now gone worldwide, and includes New Zealand and West Atlantic mako sharks; tiger sharks in Western Australia, Bermuda, Grand Bahama, Bimini Chub Cay, and Grand Cayman; oceanic whitetip sharks in the Bahamas and Caribbean; and sand tiger sharks in the Atlantic.

The sharks are tracked by two types of tags. SPOT tags are mounted to the fin of the shark and have an antenna that extends upward that transmits data when the tag breaks the surface of the water. Pop-Up tags are archival satellite tags that are typically inserted into the shark’s top surface by its dorsal fin and collect and store data within the tag.

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After a pre-determined amount of time, the tag releases from the shark, floats to the surface and transmits the stored data to a satellite from which scientists can determine the position of the shark, its depth and the temperature of water in prefers to spend its time in.

Shark Week 2013 started on the Discovery channel on August 4, and the shark tracking website can be found here.

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