Shark Tagging July 24, 2017

In order to tag sharks you must catch them. A variety of equipment is used to catch sharks. When conducting research, scientists choose gear and procedures in order to help limit possible damage to sharks that could occur as the sharks are captured. The scientist's goal is to capture the shark, collect data, tag the shark, and return it to the ocean to live a healthy life.

For tagging very large sharks, it is not possible to bring them out of the water, so they are tagged from the boat using a pole. Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory have a special permit to use gill nets and are required by law to follow procedures that limit damage to sharks. Gill nets, if not used with special care, can cause damage to sharks or may kill them. Biologists are trained to tag sharks in specific ways that will not harm the shark or affect its movements. In recent years, fishermen have joined the efforts to collect data about sharks by tagging g sharks when they catch them, rather than killing or releasing them without tags.

The fishermen who participate in these tag and release programs also need to be trained to use tags correctly. Tags improperly applied or placed in the wrong types of sharks can fall off, affecting stunt growth, creating inaccurate age and growth estimates. Improperly applied tags can even cause death. To prevent this, scientists have studied different types of tag design and technique in order to determine the best type of tag to use. The specific style and size of a tag can be matched to the shark being caught and released. For example, young or small adult sharks cannot handle tags designed for larger, tougher animals. Sharks are tagged at the base of their first dorsal fin.

Dr Neil Hammerschlag of the University of Miami Rosensteil School of Marine Science recently spent time with Olympian swimmer  Michael Phelps in South Africa as they went Cage Diving for the Discovery Channels Shark Week.