Sunday, December 09, 2012

Shark tagging - Progress!

I was happy to read this, and I cite.


New methods developed, tested and implemented by MCSI involve a device to prevent gut hooking, soft fishing gear to prevent skin abrasions and constant forward movement to fully irrigate the gills.

Sharks tagged in this manner, including the largest white shark to ever be SPOT tagged, were far more vigorous upon release than our previous method that lifted the sharks from the water. We strive to constantly improve our methods to do what is best for the sharks and the scientific community. We have many to thank, but those who deserve special mention include veterinarian Dr. Erik Madison, Mr. Keith Poe and Davidson Boats.
Stay tuned for updates...and apologies for the long FB absence during our expedition.

I ignore the details but will just blindly speculate that this is happening somewhere in Baja and aimed at unraveling the mysteries of what those adult GWS females may be doing there - and incidentally, whatever happened to the van Sommeran tag saga? Dead and forgotten, and buried under a mound of evasive verbal diarrhea? Much like the larmoyant and equally totally pulled-from-the-arse fable of Spots?

But I'm digressing as always - sorry!
The fact is that it appears that Shark tagging is advancing in leaps and bounds, and this in the right direction! I was already quite impressed by the better protocols and hardware adopted by the OCEARCH team - and this, i.e. keeping the Shark submerged clearly eliminates one of my biggest grievances. And there might be more: having been alerted to this page and noticed the name of the developer, may we be witnessing the deployment of SPOT tags (click on Finmount) via one single bolt = much less invasive and much more likely to fall off cleanly? Dunno - but sure hope that's the case!
And there's also a preventer against gut hooking!

And my harebrained suggestion that receivers may follow the tags?
Maybe not so harebrained after all - and here!

Leaves the question about the risk of publicly posting those tracks.
A prominent researcher who very graciously decided to address my concerns writes

Fishers already know where and when to find the fish they want to catch, commercial fishers wouldn’t make a living and sport fishers would take up golf if they didn’t.
The reality is that the scientific community and fisheries managers are constantly playing catch-up when it comes to knowledge about exploited species and their overlap with fisheries. It is the fishers that spend the most time on the water and generally have the most intimate knowledge of the behaviour of the fish in their patch. If this information is ever voluntarily shared with management agencies or fishery scientists its generally only in retirement.
 The beauty of satellite tags is that they allow us to connect the dots, those scraps of information contained in CPUE data, biological samples and conventional tag returns, and making this information widely available in a way that engages a broad cross section of society certainly appears to generate a much deeper appreciation of the animals and how strongly biologically connected even distant seascapes are.

Absolutely true - and yet I remain concerned! 
I totally subscribe to the notion that the research about philopatry is vital. But by publishing the tracks, especially when they reveal the oceanic highways and hotspots of a whole population like e.g. here on the TOPP pages that display location and time frame - aren't we inviting the fishermen to also concentrate their efforts in those locations and at those times?

Probably it's species- and situation-specific. 
E.g. I'm not really concerned about those GWS tracks as those Sharks are simply too few to warrant a specific targeted fishery, especially considering the distances and vast territories that would need to be covered - but those Salmon Sharks and Makos may be another matter altogether, the more as they appear to be much more coastal! Like in the case of Fish spawning aggregations where we've learned to keep the locations secret, maybe the risk/reward analysis of outreach vs fishing is too much skewed towards the risk of further depleting already highly fragile populations.

Just saying - opinions?

1 comment:

Shark Defenders said...

Man, that's a big fin.