Today, the Atlantic Shark Institute (ASI) announced that their 2021 shark research field season has begun and it is the most robust and aggressive research plan since the ASI was founded. With 10 studies on five different species of shark, the deployment of the most acoustic receivers the ASI has ever deployed and a full season of underwater BRUVS (Baited Remote Underwater Video System) deployments beginning this week, it promises to be a busy and productive season according to Jon Dodd, Executive Director of the ASI.
“Every year the breadth, depth and importance of these critical shark studies grow and that’s good news for sharks and specifically sharks in our region” shared Dodd. “This year we’ve added several additional acoustic receivers to get a better sense of shark density and movement in the region, our investment in short fin mako research efforts will more than double, and we’ve got a similar expansion planned for great white, blue, thresher and porbeagle sharks as well” Dodd added. “We couldn’t be more excited to get started.”
Last year the Atlantic Shark Institute detected nine different great white sharks in RI waters with eight of those being detected at Block Island and one in Point Judith, RI. This year they’ve added an acoustic receiver just east of Scarborough Beach, one at the northeast corner of Block Island and one at the SW corner of Block Island. “With the ability to detect these tagged sharks from more than 500 yards, we are getting a clearer and better picture of the fine scale movements of these sharks” shared Dodd.
For the first time, the ASI also plans to deploy SPOT tags (Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting Tags) based on support from their growing partnership with RI DEM’s Division of Marine Fisheries. The tags will reveal the exact location of a shark every time it breaks the surface of the water, for up to two years. That’s critical as it does not require the shark to be “detected” by an acoustic receiver, according to Dodd. “SPOT tags play a critical role in research as they can track a shark wherever it goes, regardless of how close they come to an acoustic receiver” he shared. “The vast, vast majority of the ocean has no acoustic telemetry present and some of these tagged sharks would never be detected. SPOT tags solve that problem and add additional pieces to this complex puzzle” he added.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has designated the short fin mako as endangered, the great white, porbeagle and common thresher as vulnerable and the blue shark as near threatened. “These sharks are critical to the health of our oceans in a wide variety of ways and that makes this research all the more important” according to Dodd. “We can’t continue to take over 100 million sharks out of the ocean, every year, and not create long-term issues to the health and well-being of our planet”, Dodd concluded.
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