CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Professors and researchers from the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi will appear on the 27th season premiere of nationally-recognized Discovery Channel hit series Shark Week on Monday, Aug. 11, beginning at 9 p.m. Central time.
“Sharks play a key role in marine ecosystems, but unfortunately, the oceans have been experiencing dramatic declines in these charismatic animals,” said Dr. Greg Stunz, Director of the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation and one of the key players in the research. “By tagging the sharks, we will gain a better understanding of their migration patterns that will improve conservation of these species and improve the fishery status.”
The episode titled “Monster Hammerhead” will center on legendary accounts of great hammerheads that developed in the 1940s era. During this time, they were often spotted in the Florida waters and were mistaken for German U-boats. The series is expected to reach 5 million viewers throughout the week it airs. During the episode, HRI plans to live Tweet with viewers using the handle @SportfishCenter.
During a recent research cruise, Stunz and Dr. Matt Ajemian, Assistant Research Scientist for the HRI, spent eight days tagging some of the largest specimens they could find to determine if they are using the same historical migration routes as anecdotally described. During the trip, the team was able to tag 25 large sharks weighing more than 200 pounds as well as a few sharks varying from 10 to 13 feet in length and up to 800 pounds.
“You will have to watch the show to find out if we tagged the ‘monster hammerhead’ we were looking for,” said Stunz.
Their main goal is to find a legendary giant hammerhead that has been patrolling Florida’s coastline for the past 60 years. Once the hammerhead is caught, they attach a satellite tag and release it back into the water to track it to learn more about where these sharks may be moving and what habitats they are using.
Together, Stunz and Ajemian and their shark research team have tagged more than 1,200 sharks. Many of these fish have been tagged by “citizen scientists” as part of a large volunteer angling network. These scientific discoveries will help to better understand which species are most common, where and when they occur, and connections between populations off Texas and the rest of the Gulf of Mexico.