PARK CITY, Utah, Dec. 8, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- OCEARCH, a globally recognized nonprofit dedicated to the study and tracking of keystone marine species such as great white sharks, has just wrapped its 23rd research expedition – the first for the organization in the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite the intense weather conditions that have plagued the Gulf Region over the past month and a half, OCEARCH and its collaborative team of multi-institutional scientists, assembled by the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies, tagged seven sharks – two tigers, two hammerheads, two sandbars and one bull shark.
"The weather during the expedition was challenging to say the least," said Dr. Greg Stunz, director of Sportfish Science and Conservation at Texas A &M University-Corpus Christi, and lead scientist for the Gulf expedition.
The expedition, largely supported by Caterpillar Inc., kicked off in Galveston, TX in early October. The objective was to generate previously unattainable scientific data critical to ocean conservation by tagging and sampling – specifically for hammerhead, tiger and mako sharks.
Joseph, a ten-foot tiger, and Buddy, a seven-foot hammerhead shark, both named by Caterpillar Inc., are part of four sharks caught and tagged with satellite transmitter tags. As the sharks' fins break the surface, the satellite tags will transmit their locations, allowing anyone and everyone to follow their movements by accessing the near-real time, free online Global Shark Tracker or by downloading the Global Shark Tracker App available for Apple and Android platforms.
With the help of these tagged sharks, OCEARCH and its collaborative team will begin to understand the sharks' migration patterns used to study the rates of exchange within the shared waters of the Gulf – USA, Mexico and Cuba, in order to affect policy and conserve these critical species.
"More and more people are understanding that we should all be terrified of an ocean with no sharks," said Chris Fischer, OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader. "They're the balance keepers, without them, future generations will be denied a healthy ocean."
Scientists also hope to understand the interaction between these sharks and the oil and gas platforms currently present in the Gulf, and how this relationship compares to natural reefs and other ocean features.
"These oil and gas platforms have been in the Gulf for decades. No one quite realized that vast ecosystems would be formed around them and how important they would become to fish populations in the Gulf," said Dr. Stunz. "The abundance of marine life associated with these structures is quite amazing; there are fish everywhere. This is the basis of the food chain, which means the sharks are not far behind."
"The partnership with OCEARCH has enabled us to advance our scientific knowledge of the gulf's large sharks via a collaborative approach, and has unearthed a new cooperative beginning for Gulf of Mexico shark science," said Dr. Matt Ajemian, Assistant Research Scientist at the HRI at Texas A &M University-Corpus Christi. "We only hope that the M/V OCEARCH will return to these challenging waters again for yet another impactful expedition down the road."
OCEARCH is a non-profit organization with a global reach for unprecedented ocean-based research on keystone species such as Great White and Tiger Sharks, supporting leading researchers and institutions seeking to attain groundbreaking data on the movement, biology and health of apex predators to protect their future while enhancing public safety. The researchers OCEARCH supports work aboard the M/V OCEARCH, a 126' Cat powered vessel equipped with a 75,000 lb. hydraulic research platform, where the ship serves as both mothership and at-sea laboratory. Scientists have approximately 15 minutes of access to live, mature sharks to conduct up to 12 studies. The sharks are measured, tissue and blood samples are collected, and satellite and acoustic transmitters are attached. OCEARCH expeditions are largely supported by Caterpillar Inc., as part of a socially innovative multi-year partnership to impact ocean sustainability. Additional partnership support is provided by Costa Sunglasses, DYT Yacht Transport, Contender, Yamaha, SAFE Boats, MUSTAD, and Landry's Inc.
For nearly 90 years, Caterpillar Inc. has been making sustainable progress possible and driving positive change on every continent. Customers turn to Caterpillar to help them develop infrastructure, energy and natural resource assets. With 2013 sales and revenues of $55.656 billion, Caterpillar is the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. The company principally operates through its three product segments - Resource Industries, Construction Industries and Energy & Transportation - and also provides financing and related services through its Financial Products segment Cat.com/BuiltForIt.
About the Harte Research Institute:
The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, an endowed research component of Texas A &M University-Corpus Christi, is dedicated to advancing the long-term sustainable use and conservation of the Gulf of Mexico. HRI provides international leadership in generating and disseminating knowledge about the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and its critical role in the economies of the North American region. The Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation is a research hub at the HRI and dedicated to providing the key science for sustainable fisheries management.
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CONTACT: Ami Meite 435.645.8990 firstname.lastname@example.orgSource: Ocearch