Marine scientists tap technology to study shark behavior

Scientists look at link of shark migration to recent spike in shark attacks

Published  6:33 PM HST Dec 06, 2012
HONOLULU -

Say "tiger shark" and most people would try get as far away as possible.

Not so with the scientists from the University of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology who search out the tigers to learn more.

One of these scientists Carl Meyer, has been tagging tiger sharks for decades.

Thanks to surgically implanted acoustic devices, scientists have collected years of valuable data about shark migration patterns.

And they're complex:

A tiger spotted in Oahu waters in the morning can be in Molokai in the afternoon.

Special receivers set up across the Hawaiian chain have also picked up signals of tagged great white sharks that come from as far away as California.

"What we have seen with the white sharks is they tend to be in relatively deep water. So unlike the tiger sharks which are routinely in shallow water, we almost never hear the white sharks in less than 100 feet," said shark expert Carl Meyer.

There are smartphone apps like Expedition Great White that trace the movement of great white sharks in real time.

Meyer says Hawaii scientists are considering something similar.

But they are also close to developing a "shark pill" to understand shark feeding behavior.

"We are aiming to develop this technology into a satellite base tag and we will be able to get into the shark’s stomach. And then, we will be able to learn exactly when, and where sharks are feeding, which we know very little about at the moment," Meyer said.

Unfortunately, the shark migration studies can't shed too much light on the sudden spike in shark attacks around the main Hawaiian Islands.

"There is this apparent seasonal increase in fall that happens to coincide with the congregation of adult female sharks in the main Hawaiian Islands for the purpose of pupping. Now, we don’t know whether those sharks are the ones that are biting people, so it may be a coincidence," Meyer said.

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