FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Shark experts in Fort Lauderdale have issued a B.O.L.O., or Be On The Lookout, for a missing mako shark.
Researchers at Nova Southeastern University tagged the shark but it hasn’t been heard from in nearly a month.
The NSU researchers think of their tagged sharks as members of their family and like all good parents, when they haven’t heard from one of their own in a while, they get a little concerned.
That’s exactly what’s happened with 1-NSU, a male juvenile shortfin mako shark tagged last year. Ever since he was tagged, this particular shark has shown he’s the adventurer of the family, doing things never seen before.
“This shark sure has logged the miles,” said Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., a professor at NSU’s Oceanographic Center and the Director of NSU’s Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI.) “I’ve been studying sharks for a while now and I’ve never seen one act quite like this one – his travels are mind-boggling, and especially so because he is a youngster – only about 5 feet in length.”
What has Shivji and his fellow scientists at NSU a little troubled is that 1-NSU’s satellite tag hasn’t “pinged” for nearly a month, after reporting in regularly for just about 14 months.
This particular shark was first tagged in May 2013 off Ocean City, Maryland. It has “pinged” in places like the Northeast Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, South America and the coasts of North Carolina, Maryland, and New York.
However, it last “pinged” on July 10, 2014 between Massachusetts and Nova Scotia.
“We’ve had some other sharks go a few days without pinging, but 1-NSU has been a champ when it comes to reporting, letting us know where he is in the ocean almost daily until his sudden ‘disappearance’,” Shivji said. “It could be that the tag battery finally gave out. We’re hoping it’s not because this amazing shark has been caught, like several of the other makos we were tracking.”
1-NSU has logged around 12,000 miles and made it as far south as Venezuela. This is the longest distance travel known for any mako.
Shivji and his research team have satellite tagged and tracked several species of sharks.
1-NSU is among 38 makos they have tagged with special satellite-linked devices allowing them to monitor their detailed movements. The research team has a particular interest in mako shark behavior and conservation. In addition to being the Nova Southeastern University mascot, this fast swimming species is also under heavy fishing pressure.
The public can follow 1-NSU and the other tagged sharks in near real-time online at www.ghritracking.org. The interactive tracking Website is an educational outreach component of NSU’s GHRI’s quest to study shark migration patterns, with the ultimate goal being to better understand and protect them, as some species are threatened or endangered.
The scientists began tagging mako sharks in 2009 to study their migratory patterns and now undertakes expeditions worldwide to study these amazing animals, and have tagged mako sharks as far away as Mexico and New Zealand. In addition to makos, NSU’s GHRI and Save Our Seas Shark Research Center scientists are also tracking tiger, oceanic white tip and sand tiger sharks, as well as blue and white marlin.
“After all these years working with sharks, the thing that constantly jumps out is how little we still understand about sharks,” Shivji said. “The astonishing behavior of a shark like 1-NSU shows there is so much more for us to learn about these fascinating animals.”