Due to overfishing happening at a global scale, there are few places where sharks can live risk-free, outside the footprint of fisheries. Protected areas give sharks and other threatened marine species a ‘safe haven’ to grow, mature, and survive on their own. Sharks are also slow-growing, so they can take decades to recover from population depletion – thus making protected areas even more important. Protected areas need to encompass the home range of sharks, which is why research and tagging efforts can be beneficial.
All of the data we collect is logged into electronic databases and utilized and analyzed for a variety of short-term and longer-term collaborative projects, initiatives, and campaigns. Data is analyzed and synthesized into easy-to-understand results for use in reports and scientific publications which form the body of evidence we use to help affect real-world conservation impact.
We also share our results on social media and do our best to make data publicly available, when appropriate. In general, scientific results take 1-3 years from when they are collected to when they are published and released into the world, although sometimes results can be churned out quickly for smaller publications or technical reports.
Translating our science to change is very important for us, and we often take an active, hands-on role in this process. We work with a variety of national and international conservation and policy partners, who are working hard on the policy frontlines to create change in our oceans. We are also commonly consulted and asked to provide our information or expertise by other NGOs, governments, and policy groups. Policy change can take years to take effect, but we have seen firsthand the use of our data and work to create conservation and management policies for threatened species and marine zones.
All field-based research efforts are conducted with the goal of being a minimally invasive as possible, from boating operations, to plastic use, to animal handling. Animal capture and release protocols are designed with animal vitality and survival in mind and are subject to institutional review for best practices and ethics. Sharks are caught using gears that allow them to breathe and swim while hooked. Our sharks are never removed from the water during research workups, keeping them in their environment and they are constantly monitored for breathing and vital signs. The majority of all research work ups are completed in less than 7 minutes before they are released to swim away healthy and strong.
Current science suggests that sharks have limited capacity to actually ‘feel’ pain. Specifically, sharks lack the nervous system receptors that process pain. Sharks have powerful and active immune systems, designed for the rough and tumble lives they live. All of the samples we take are minimally invasive; for example, a 2cm clip of fin tissue can grow back, a few mL of blood will be replenished, and any small cuts are able to heal quickly. The hook we use to catch sharks is designed to be easily removed from the side of the mouth, leaving a small piercing that will heal in a few weeks. The impact of the workup we conduct on sharks is quite minimal in terms of the what these animals may experience in their normal daily interactions.
Since sharks are able to remain in the water and breathe naturally throughout all aspects of the capture and tagging process, we release sharks in the best condition possible. Due to these considerations, we avoid highly stressful interactions which can affect the short term behavior of sharks, leading them to dive deep or swim far away from the tagging location. In cases where we are able to observe sharks after release, we see them returning immediately to normal swimming and behavior.
Electronic tags are never permanent, so although these animals may be carrying some extra equipment for periods of up to a year, there is no evidence to suggest long-term impacts on health or survival. Fin-mounted satellite tags do not last forever (the battery depletes after about 1 year under best conditions), and will eventually corrode and fall off. In many cases the attachment site of the fin can heal over, similar to what happens after mating events where sharks will bite onto the fins of their mates. Pop-off satellite tags will pop-off the shark after a predetermined time, and the anchor will eventually migrate out of the shark tissue. In many cases sharks are exhibiting long-term migrations, suggesting no effects on health or condition. We believe the value of the data collected from these tags outweighs any minimal short-term effects the shark may experience from carrying a small tag for months to a year.
We still don’t know much about shark movements and behavior, but electronic tagging gives us the chance to gather high-resolution information that can be used to create realistic conservation measures such as informed marine protected areas or overlap with fishing activity.
Yes, and much of our broader work involves non-invasive observation or sampling that does not involve animal capture. These include the use of underwater cameras, vehicles, submersibles, and molecular and oceanographic analyses of water.
We love it when passionate students reach out with interest in getting involved. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer internships to high school students. We do, however, work with graduate students on specific research projects, on a case-by-case basis, depending on resource availability and fit. Please reach out to us via our contact form if you are interested.
Yes, we can offer experiences for corporate groups. These are fantastic opportunities for team building, professional development, and impact. For more information, please email email@example.com.
Being educated and informed with credible, up-to-date information is a huge first step for educating those around you. In addition to becoming a leader in your community or network, you can get involved by volunteering, donating, or contributing other resources.