NSU’s Guy Harvey Research Institute tracks whale shark migration pathways


Researchers at the Guy Harvey Research Institute, a collaborative program between Dr. Guy Harvey and NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, are tracking the migration of whale sharks off the coast of Mexico. 


According to Dr. Mahmood Shivji, a professor in the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography and director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute, “the project is about studying the migration patterns of whale sharks, and the work is being done out of Isla Mujeres, Mexico. The whale sharks form seasonal aggregations in large numbers at this particular place so they are easy to access. The study is being conducted [in international collaboration with] Mexican marine biologist, Rafael de la Parr.” 


Whale sharks are the largest species of fish, growing up to 60 feet in length, and are migratory filter feeders. The research team is tagging the whale sharks by attaching tags to their dorsal fins while swimming beside them. This is the first time this methodology has been used and is expected to provide accurate and continuous updated information about their migration patterns. When the tag is raised above the water, it is detected by a satellite that tracks the whale sharks’ movements. 


The researchers are tracking these animals to gain greater insight on how their migration patterns interact with commercial fishing lanes and in efforts to reduce the number of whale sharks killed by ships. Whale sharks “are an endangered species, and by understanding their migration patterns and why they go a very long distance, we hope to put together a big picture of these migration pathways and see whether these shipping lanes are intersecting with the migration pathways of this endangered species,” said Shivji. “We first have to determine how much overlap there is between the migratory pathways and shipping pathways. If there is not a lot of overlap, then no problem. If there is, that information can be used to try and change the regulations for shipping lanes.”


To learn more about the progress of the research, go to www.ghritracking.org.

Photo Source: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

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