What's the best way to study how well, or even if, sharks survive the ordeal of being caught and released?
While satellite and acoustic transmitter tags might be good for long-haul migration observations, a new study argues that "Fitbit"-like accelerometer tags are ideally suited to tracking an event that lasts just a matter of hours.
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Sharks are often caught and released by commercial and recreational fishing expeditions. Whether thanks to regulation observance or human conscience, predators caught on the hook can be tossed right back in the water.
But, "in recreational and commercial fisheries, it is largely unknown how many sharks survive the stress of capture and release," said Nick Whitney in a statement. The staff scientist with Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla. led the study, which has been published in the online journal Fisheries Research.
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Whitney has a wealth of experience using motion-sensing accelerometer tags to track data about shark mating, swimming patterns and energy expenditure. But, before his study, no one had yet evaluated their use in shark recovery and survival after being caught and then released back into the water. He argues that they're the way to go.
Whitney and his research team tested accelerometer tags on 20 blacktip sharks caught and released by fishermen in Florida's Cape Canaveral and Charlotte Harbor.
The sharks were tagged with the mechanisms, which were programmed to keep an eye on the animal's movements for up to one week.
The tags later detached and floated to the surface, broadcasting a radio signal so they could be located for collection.
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