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SCIENTIFIC OBJECTIVES OF THE USC
Directed by Robert E. Hueter Ph.D., Mote Center for Shark Research

Expected Outcomes:

 This project will provide a breakthrough in collaborative research involving the marine scientific and recreational fishing communities. By working together to develop a 21st century, conservation-oriented alternative to the shark kill tournament, the Mote Center for Shark Research (CSR) and tournament organizers will provide a model to be emulated nationwide, helping to reduce overfishing of sharks, and even more importantly, change public attitudes about responsible use of marine resources. Specific scientific results expected from this collaborative project include:

- Documentation of shark species composition, relative abundance and size/sex data
- Migratory behavior and stock identification data from conventional tagging studies
- Post-release survivorship estimates - Identification of shark critical habitats, including nursery ground

 

The Mote (CSR) has operated a conventional tagging program (external, numbered dart tags, pictured right) since 1991, and has tagged approximately 20,000 sharks in the southwest Florida region. Tag resighting rate in this program has run 3-4%, typical for a tagging program of this kind.Teams participating in the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge will be trained and required to conventionally tag all qualifying sharks over 5 feet in length to earn points.

Conventional Tagging Operations:
Satellite Tagging Operations:
The CSR has been applying electronic satellite tags (both PAT – pop-off archival tags, and SPOT – satellite position-only tags) to a variety of shark species since 1999, and has taken a leadership role in design and deployment of electronic sensors to study shark behavior. A SPOT tag is applied to a shark's dorsal fin in photo top left.
One priority in this project will be to satellite-tag certain candidate species including large female great hammerheads (Sphyrna mokarran), as pictured to the left, which are found in the tournament region in April-May, often pregnant. The pupping grounds for this species in the eastern Gulf of Mexico are relatively unknown, and satellite tags on these large sharks will help to elucidate the location of these critical habitats.

To facilitate this collaborative effort between sport and science, qualifying sharks captured by teams participating in the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge will be immediately radioed in to tournament officials during competition. Any capture of a species eligible for the attachment of a satellite tag will be communicated to a high-speed chase vessel carrying research team members. These highly trained personnel, headed by Robert Hueter, will then move to intercept the anglers, while they are retrieving and controlling the fish. Once the shark is measured and scored by the competing anglers, it will be handed off to the research team who will place the satellite tag and release the fish.