Headline for Featured Item #1 Island University Researchers Play “Tag” During Shark Week - Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
Texas A&M University Corpus Christi - Discover Your Island

Island University Researchers Play “Tag” During Shark Week

August 06, 2013

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – At Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Harte Research Institute (HRI) researchers are out to catch sharks.   They want to better understand shark behavior, something that has had people fascinated by the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week since 1987.

Shark Week features nothing but back-to-back shows on sharks.  Many shark populations worldwide are in decline, including some in the Gulf of Mexico.   A decline in the shark population could mean an increase in the typical shark prey, upsetting the balance of the ecosystem. 

Dr. Matt Ajemian, with HRI, is part of an effort to tag and track sharks to better understand their distribution, feeding habitats, and movement patterns in the Gulf of Mexico and coastal waters of the Padre Island National Seashore. 

“We’ve learned that sharks caught in the Galveston/Houston area are more likely to stay there,” said Ajemian.  “Sharks caught in Coastal Bend waters, on the other hand, do not stick around and are generally migrating south.”

Ajemian says one theory is that the drought is to blame.  Near Houston, more freshwater from rain is going into to the bays and estuaries making for a more “shark-friendly” environment.  Drought conditions in the Coastal Bend are making area waterways too salty for shark habitats, particularly for younger animals that use estuaries for growth and protection from predators.

“For example, the Laguna Madre has virtually no shark population at this time,” said Ajemian.

Much of the data gathered depends on the help of recreational fishermen and their willingness to help.  Researchers at HRI need anglers to help tag the sharks they catch and then report when they snag a shark that is already tagged.

“Until now, there has been virtually no research done on the shark populations of the western Gulf,” said Ajemian. “We are changing that with the help of local fishermen.”

If you catch a shark that is tagged, you are asked to measure the shark and call the phone number on the tag.  You can also report it at sportfishresearch.org.     

The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2013 runs through August 10.   

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