They have signed up for the Great Shark Race, and they are challenging others to step up and sponsor a shark in this one-of-a-kind race.
“This is a great way for people or corporations to get directly involved with cutting-edge shark research,” said Guy Harvey, Ph.D. “Plus, participants can promote their support and have bragging rights as family, friends and business associates follow their own shark online.”
Nova Southeastern University, NSU's Guy Harvey Research Institute and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation created this innovative race that allows businesses and individuals to sponsor and name a shark that will be fitted with a satellite tracking tag. The tags not only gather valuable data, but also allow researchers and the public to follow the sharks online in real time on the website: www.ghritracking.org.
Whoever’s shark travels the longest distance in six months wins the grand prize – a Florida Keys fishing vacation!
The Great Shark Race consists of two “divisions” – the Shortfin Mako Shark Division and the Oceanic Whitetip Shark Division.
The race was created as a way to shine a spotlight not only the incredible distances these and other sharks swim through the waters of many countries, but also to draw attention to the effects of overfishing and to get people and corporations involved in the science and the data gathering process.
“Given the large reductions and declining population trends both species are in need of better management and immediate conservation,” said Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., professor at NSU's Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography and the director of NSU's Guy Harvey Research Institute. “Both species are known to travel long distances but hardly anything is known about the details of these movements in terms of their timing, orientation, scales of movement, differences between sexes and sizes and what factors drive these migrations. This knowledge is essential for developing effective conservation measures, such as time and area closures for shark fisheries.”
Sir Richard Branson is pushing to have all Caribbean nations provide legislated protection for sharks within the next five years as part of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative. So far the Bahamas, Honduras, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Cayman Islands have such legislation in place.
These two species of ocean-going sharks have become the focus of a long-term research effort by NSU and GHRI researchers. Both species have been extensively overfished worldwide with the mako listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable to extinction, and the oceanic whitetip as critically endangered in the Atlantic. Shivji said this knowledge is essential for developing effective conservation measures, such as time and area closures for shark fisheries.
There has been very little research work conducted on mako sharks until a study to track these ocean-going speedsters was started three years ago off the Yucatan in Mexico by researchers at the GHRI. As the study has expanded, several corporations have now increased their support. Notably Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Unite are supporting shark tracking efforts by the GHRI in the western Caribbean.
“We want to have some fun, but even more importantly use the race to bring added awareness to the plight of these magnificent animals,” said Shivji. “It’s vital that we learn the migratory patterns and other aspects of these animals’ lives so we can ensure they survive and thrive for years to come.”