How to stalk a shark

2013-01-25 09:21

Man wrestles shark with bare hands

2013-01-21 09:33

A British tourist is being hailed a hero after he tackled a 2-metre shark that came a bit too close to paddling toddlers along the shore.WATCH

Ever wondered about the secret life of sharks? Where they go when they're not roaming the False Bay coastline? Who their friends are? Which are their favourite hangouts in the deep?

Well, of course you have! And the good news is, there is a way of finding these (at least some of these) things out. While checking out former Shark Wrangler, Chris Fischer's latest updates on OCEARCH's website, we stumbled upon an intriguing shark tracking tool, which allows you to observe the navigational pattern of these apex predators that have been tagged.

Tagging process

Fischer and his team have been conducting unprecedented research off the False Bay coastline, as well as in the Cape Cod area of New England in the US by attracting, catching, tagging, and bio-sampling sharks. During the process a GPS tag is attached to the fin, which will emit a satellite signal every time the shark surfaces and should last for five years.

In this way the OCEARCH team can keep track of the tagged sharks' movements practically on a daily basis, allowing them to document the previously undocumented, complex migratory routes.

The easy-to-use mapping tool on their website also makes it easy for Joe Soap to follow the movements of these fascinating ocean creatures.

The tracking tool

There are a number of ways in which you can explore the shark tracker, with various options listed on the left-hand side of the page.

The default view allows you to see a world map with colourful dots depicting the location of all the tagged sharks. However, if you feel like getting a little more insight, you can opt to view a specific shark's movements, or limit your search by ‘tracking activity,' ‘gender' and ‘stage of life.'

The sharks

"Okay, wait... did you just say, a specific shark? Like, how many are there? And how do you know which is which?" we hear you ask. And valid questions, indeed.

OCEARCH currently have 36 tagged sharks whose movements are being mapped, each boasting their own very special name.

For instance, there's Albertina Sisulu whose last GPS signal was emitted on 12 January 2013 at 6am just off the coast of Mossel Bay. But, you want to know more about her movements. It's easy. Just click on the little blue ‘view more' button, which will open a new column on the right-hand side of the page. Here you will find a whole lot of new information, such as species, gender, stage of life, length, weight, tag date, tag location and finally ‘where have I been.'

Click on this blue button and watch as the incredible graph of recent movement unfolds in front of you.

And so you can discover the same for every shark from Helen Suzman to Madiba to Oprah, Poseidon and Princess Fi.

The tracking tool has also been invaluable in making people aware of the threats facing shark populations worldwide. In a sad incident last year, it was found that one of OCEARCH's tagged sharks, named Brenda Fassie, had been caught off the coast of Mozambique. Further investigation revealed that she had been eaten, a fate that far too many sharks succumb to.

Head to the OCEARCH Shark Tracker to check it out for yourself.

Purpose of research/tracking

By doing this sort of research, OCEARCH is hoping to come to a better understanding of the inner workings of these much-feared predators. Their tracking tool also helps bring ordinary people to a fuller knowledge of the way sharks navigate the waters - and that they do not, indeed, roam around the coastlines waiting for an opportunity to strike, as many may suspect.

The main aim of their research, however, is to assist conservation bodies in protecting shark species from extinction. "Conserving sharks is thus currently a global conservation priority and devising successful conservation and management strategies is largely limited by our scientific knowledge on their biology," the website explains.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 30 percent of assessed shark and ray species are threatened or near-threatened with extinction.

Read more on:    animals  |  travel international

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