Ocean Community News

Mako and Whale Sharks Are “Racing” to Help Save Their Fellow Sharks

Sharks Can Be Tracked Via Online Site Anywhere in the World

Great Mako Race Logo finalDo you have COVID-19 burnout? Are you suffering from quarantine fatigue? Need a break from watching story after story on the vaccine rollout?

Well, fear not – Nova Southeastern University (NSU) has just the cure to take your mind off of all things COVID! The Great Shark Race 2021 is here!

It’s a race unlike any other, and it includes some of the fastest competitors as well as some of the, well, slowest. And it’s all to help further key scientific research aimed at saving endangered sharks.

The Great Shark Race 2021, which is being overseen by NSU’s Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI), is actually two separate races – one involving shortfin mako sharks, which are some of the fastest marine creatures on the planet, and the other with gigantic whale sharks, which, you guessed it, are kind of slow.

The Great Shark Race began on January 1 and continues through July 14, 2021.

Many shark species, including mako and whale sharks, are severely threatened or even endangered by extinction due to human activities. GHRI research has shown that up to 73 million sharks a year end up in the global shark fin trade, and some estimates say that annually approximately 100 million sharks are removed from the world’s oceans. Clearly that is not a sustainable number.

“For more than 20 years I have been working with researchers at NSU to learn about sharks that are so critical for maintaining a healthy balance in our ocean ecosystems,” said Dr. Guy Harvey, Chairman of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. “We have learned much, but there is so much more to discover. Sharks are vital to not only our oceans, but the overall health of our planet. We must all work together – scientists, governments, the business community – to protect these magnificent marine animals.”

Along with being a world-renowned marine artist, Harvey earned a doctorate in fisheries and is dedicated to worldwide marine conservation and awareness.

The way The Great Shark Race 2021 works is simple: fin-mounted SPOT satellite tags utilize the latest in ocean wildlife tracking technology to allow researchers and the public to follow the sharks online in near real-time via the GHRI Race Tracking Website. These SPOT tags relay a wealth of data back to researchers, including the distance each shark swims as it makes its way around the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea. Then, on July 14, 2021, which is International Shark Awareness Day, the mako and whale shark that logs the most miles/km will be named winners in The Great Shark Race 2021.

Mako and whale sharks are known to migrate thousands of miles, but little is known about the timing, orientation, differences between sexes and sizes and what factors drive these migrations – all essential data for developing effective conservation measures based on science for these endangered species.

“This shark race event is a way to raise public awareness of the plight of sharks and get community support for this needed research,” said Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., the director of NSU’s GHRI and Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center.

It’s not just the researchers who are concerned about the health of the world’s shark populations and our oceans.

“I’m really pleased to say that leaders in our business community have stepped up in a very big way to sponsor this needed conservation science research,” said Shivji. “The owners of these businesses are highly successful entrepreneurs, passionate about ocean conservation, and truly ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to helping restore the health of our oceans. The research team at NSU’s GHRI is enormously grateful for their continued support for ocean science and conservation.”

Two businesses have come on board as Presenting Sponsors for each shark race – FishAngler App for the mako shark division and The Moss Foundation for the whale shark division. Word of their involvement has spread and they’ve been joined by several other businesses that are sponsoring individual racing sharks:

“The FishAngler app is a community of anglers dedicated to sharing fishing knowledge, education and stories across generation,” said Tom Wye, CEO of FishAngler app. “We are excited to be part of this research effort, and we recognize the need of much better management and conservation to ensure the preservation of these species for future generations to enjoy.”

Chad Moss, President of the Moss Foundation and Executive Vice President of Moss & Associates, added: “The Moss Foundation is focused on education. This entertaining research exercise will help bring awareness to our waters and its inhabitants. My family and I are avid boaters and love the ocean, and we’re delighted to be part of the business community helping support the important marine conservation research conducted by NSU’s GHRI.”

Shivji said the race may sound easy enough, but it is important to remember that while participating in the race, these tagged sharks are still subject to the same dangers as their fellow sharks that are not tagged.

“We’ve lost upwards of 30% of the mako sharks we’ve tagged since we started,” Shivji said. “It illustrates just what these animals face in the wild. In fact, our tracking studies have demonstrated that mako sharks in the western North Atlantic are being over-fished.”

And that is sort of the point, to highlight the perils sharks are facing and that we must do more to protect them.

So, let the best sharks win!

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