Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cat Island Bahamas Oceanic Tagging Effort

Great news from the Bahamas from one of the best shark research teams in the region the Cape Eleuthera Institute.

The oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) was once considered to be one of the most numerous large vertebrates on the planet. Yet ongoing exploitation of this species for it fins, for use in the Asian delicacy shark fin soup, has caused precipitous population declines in many parts of the world.

This species has been especially hard-hit in the northwest and western central Atlantic Ocean, where it is now difficult to find them in significant numbers. Despite the inherent difficulties in finding and studying large, relatively rare oceanic sharks, an international team of researchers successfully satellite-tagged a large number of these animals off Cat Island, The Bahamas, this month in order to track their movements to enable more effective conservation of this top ocean predator.

Edd Brooks, Annabelle Oronti and Sean Williams of the Shark Research and Conservation Program at the Cape Eleuthera Institute , Lucy Howey-Jordan and Dr. Lance Jordan of Microwave Telemetry, Inc. , Stuart Cove and the staff of Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas , Dr. Demian Chapman of Stony Brook University and Debra Abercrombie of Abercrombie & Fish, undertook a 10-day expedition to Cat Island to conduct the first instalment of a long-term project to study the movements and habitat use of oceanic whitetips.

The project has been off to a successful start, and the first of the deployed satellite tags have begun transmitting data on the shark’s whereabouts and will continue to relay crucial habitat-use information over coming months. In the meantime the research team has already started planning next year’s trip with members of the local dive community.

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