Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shark Research Isla Guadalupe - Complex Emotional Data

Science is not always pretty. Field science even less so. The headlong rush to extract data from big charismatic mega fauna like the white shark has lead us to a real debate within the shark community over invasive tagging methods.

SPOT tagging is a questionable method of tagging whites that involves catching them with baited hooks and attaching a "drilled on" dorsal tech package. The argument is these packages last longer and deliver more data to researchers which is then used to protect the species.

We have been supporters of this method until recently.

Unfortunately when reviewing videos of SPOT tagging, one comes to the conclusion that these efforts are in dire need of set protocols that do less invasive harm to magnificent breeding aged animals. The loss of just one of these animals through invasive research would be a major blow to the entire western pacific population.

At no point should anyone on this team be lacking for any contingency, seconds count, and the lack of basics, like support tires for this animal, multiple and conflicting directive voices, and a fresh sea water tube that is 10% effective is appalling to watch:

More from the Dorsal Fin Blog.


RTSea said...

If it wasn't so tragic, it would be comical.

The first impression is that we're seeing the Keystone Cops of shark conservation; then you realize that throughout all the shenanigans, there is a priceless animals whose health is ticking away with each incompetent-inspired second.

This is the poster child of inept shark research.

George said...

Wow, that video would serve as a good example of how NOT to SPOT tag a white shark. The seawater hose is seemingly all over the place (except for the sharks mouth, of course).

Not really sure what was going on with the researcher pulling on the cable. I've seen people do more graceful flips over the front rail at Metallica shows. Thankfully, he didn't seem to be seriously injured, but the fall certainly had potential neck injury written all over it.

This is one of those videos that never should have made it to YouTube.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

What a wild about face this turned out to be.

From a full supporter of SPOT tagging conservation research to an outspoken advocate against this kind of work.

It was a tough call to make, but after the Farallones disaster, a few off line emails detailing graphic horrors, and the death of at least one tagged animal I gotta say, this is bogus work.

The research community should set a weight and size limit for SPOT tagged sharks, full stop.

The research community should also bury images and video like this one.

The work needs to be done, the question is what kind of work should we be doing?

DaShark said...

The collection of data per se is a good thing and should be continued, PROVIDED that is then translated into concrete measures for the protection of the animals - if not, it's just a waste of time and money.

When it comes to the procedures

- ideally, develop a better tag that can be reliably applied "on the fly", eg via a pole spear. Do you really think that those guys cannot come up with better technical solutions for the 5 grand you're paying them?

- be humble and go learn the craft of handling big marine animals from the guys that successfully handle cetaceans, and then adapt procedures to the specific requirements of Sharks - this is a prime example of amateurish incompetence

- pool resources (yes: by COOPERATING with other researchers!) and get a budget enabling you to operate from a "real" boat and not some cheap jury-rigged aquatic nightmare.

- tell the guy with the camera to get out of the way or even better: to get lost! And do not, ever, post shit like this on YouTube!

- start out by loving and respecting the animal you work with