Expedition White Shark

Posted by on Jun 1, 2010 in Articles | 1 comment

Expedition White Shark App

Welcome to Expedition White Shark, the world’s first app designed to track adult white sharks in real time! To make this possible, scientists at the Marine Conservation Science Institute attached custom satellite tags to the dorsal fin of adult Great White Sharks, allowing us to follow their movements from Satellites orbiting the earth. Expedition White Shark allows you to receive near real time Great White Shark tracking data at the same time as the research scientists.  Positions for the tagged sharks can only be calculated when a shark is at the surface with its dorsal fin out of the water for several minutes; since sharks are not always finning we receive intermittent position data from our sharks, but each signal beamed to us form space adds to our growing knowledge of the life history of this species. Since you are getting our data in near real time you will notice that the satellites sometimes make mistakes, placing the shark far from its actual location; we correct these errors later, when we analyze the data.  The MCSI satellite tagging of Great White Sharks has led to many important new findings regarding white shark biology, and each new day brings promise of a new discovery that you can make with us!

You can view the track for individual sharks or monitor the current positions for tagged sharks.
Under current data, sharks with positions within the last 30 days are marked with fin and sharks with hsitorical location data on today’s date in previous years are marked with dot. This shows patterns of where the sharks may be found this time of year.

Short video clips within the app demonstrate how we safely capture, tag and release these large charismatic creatures, while also presenting new insight into the life history and conservation of the species.  Explore the detailed histories of individual Great White Sharks by visiting our Shark Profiles.

White Shark attacks on humans are rare, but they can occur; Expedition White Shark allows you to explore all white shark attacks that have occurred along the Pacific Coast of the United States and Australia. Zoom in to the coast and you will see red fins appear; if you click on an individual fin, you will learn the basic details of the event. The migratory behavior of this species creates a seasonal pattern of shark attacks and you can decrease your risk of a white shark encounter if you know when and where they may occur.

Keep up with the latest research insights posted by Dr. Michael Domeier and Nicole Nasby-Lucas, by using your Facebook account to log into the MCSI page and follow the latest Tweets from Brucewhiteshark.

Here are some frequently asked questions about tagging and tracking great white sharks…

Dr. Domeier and other white shark researchers have used satellite tags in the past that do not require the shark to be captured, why is Dr. Domeier using new tags that do require handling the shark?
The older generation of satellite tags could only track a shark for one year at the very most.  Once we learned that adult white sharks have a migration pattern that exceeds one year, he turned to the newer SPOT tags.  The SPOT tags he developed with the tag manufacturer will track individual adult white sharks for 4-6 years. This technology is ideal for looking at large scale long term movement patterns and will help reveal the entire migratory patterns of these sharks. This is especially important for tracking the mating and birthing areas for the females which have a 2-3 year migration cycle.

Is the data important?
The more we know about these sharks that more we can protect them, and there is still much that we don’t know. This is especially important since they cross international boundaries and we are dealing with mating areas, pupping areas and nursery grounds. These are particularly sensitive areas that need to be protected.

Does it hurt the sharks to drill into their dorsal fin?
Sharks do not have the same sensitivity to pain as humans.  The sharks do not even react when the tags are being attached to their fins.

The sharks you are tagging are huge; can their own weight harm the sharks while they are on deck?
We know that whales can sometimes incur internal injury when they get stranded on the beach, so this issue was a concern.  Fortunately sharks are much smaller than whales, and we started out by testing our methods on relatively small sharks.  Our early success allowed us to slowly start working on larger and larger sharks and likewise found that they go through the tagging process without serious injury.  We could run into problems if we captured a female with a late-term pregnancy, but we target females at sites and times when they are not pregnant.

What are your biggest concerns when catching the shark?
The most important thing is to keep a good supply of fresh seawater flowing over the gills and return the shark to the water as soon as possible.  As we gain experience the total time we must keep the shark out of the water has been cut in half.

After being released do the sharks flee the area right away?
Fortunately we have a lot of previous experience with these sharks so we know the general behavior patterns.  We have not found the capture and tagging to alter the migratory habits of these fish.  Instead, the SPOT tagging has allowed us to answer research questions that we could have never addressed using older technologies.

What is tonic immobility and how does it work?
Tonic immobility is a trance-like state experienced by sharks when they are placed and held upside down.  It is not know why this phenomenon occurs, shark researchers often use tonic immobility to their advantage, so they can safely handle live sharks.  Once placed upright, the sharks snap out of tonic immobility and resume normal behavior.

How long will the tags transmit data for?
Our SPOT tags are designed to transmit from 4-6 years.

How do you know that the sharks survive?
We know the sharks survive because the SPOT tags can only transmit to orbiting satellites when the shark is swimming at the surface.  If the sharks did not survive the tagging method then we would not get any signal.  We’ve gotten signals from all of our tagged sharks.

While you were tagging one of the sharks I noticed blood coming out of the shark’s mouth when you put the water tube in its mouth. Can you tell me what this is from?
It is unavoidable that the hook will make a puncture wound in the mouth.  The seawater from the irrigation hose mixes with the blood from the hook wound and the resulting red water looks like a LOT of blood, but it is mostly water and actually a trivial amount of blood for such a huge animal.  These sharks are quite aggressive towards each other and they routinely inflict far more damage to each other than our hook.

What is the brown, sometimes shaggy or stringy looking stuff that can be seen on the fins and bodies of the sharks?
Those are a type of external parasite, most likely a parasitic copepod.  They are very common, not only on sharks, but on other species of fish as well.  Just imagine your dog without a flea treatment! If you would like additional info on parasitic copepods click here.

For more information on our comprehensive white shark research program click here

Terms of Use

Ownership of Copyright

The copyright of this application and the materials on this application (including without limitation the tracking data, text, computer code, artwork, photographs, images, material, video material and audio-visual materials on this Application is owned by Marine Conservation Science Institute, a 501(c)3 nonprofit.)

Copyright License

Marine Conservation Science Institute grants to you a worldwide, non-exclusive royalty-free revocable license to:

  • View this application and the material on this application on a mobile device
  • Copy and store this application and the material on this application through your iTunes account or on an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch

Marine Conservation Science Institute does not grant you other rights in relation to this application or the material on this application. In other words, all other rights are reserved. For the avoidance of doubt, you must not adapt, edit, change, transform, publish, republish, distribute, redistribute, broadcast, rebroadcast or show or play in public this application or the material on this application in any form or media.

Data Mining

The automated and/or systematic collection of data from this application is prohibited.

Availability of Tracking Data

  • The continued tracking of sharks on this app is dependent upon the condition of existing tags on sharks and our ability to tag new sharks in the future. These tags are susceptible to many factors that render them nonoperational. For example, the batteries eventually run out, the sharks shed the tags and/or biofouling organisms cause the tag to fail. If at some time in the future no tags are transmitting and we are unable to tag more sharks, the app could be terminated without notice.
  • The proceeds from this app go directly back into our research activities, so we thank you for your support and encourage you to turn your friends on to our app!

Enforcement of Copyright

Marine Conservation Science Institute takes the protection of its copyright very seriously. If Marine Conservation Science Institute discovers that you have used its copyright materials in contravention of the license above, Marine Conservation Science Institute may bring legal proceedings against you seeking monetary damages and an injunction against to stop you using these materials resulting in substantial legal costs awarded against the offending entity/entities.

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