Phillip the great white shark tagged for shark tracking, research and conservation efforts in Gansbaai, South Africa.

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Myths and false criticisms have been doing its rounds, creating misconceptions about shark tagging and research tracking.

Let’s debunk the myths of shark tracking with these important facts.

Tagging does not cause sharks pain

Sensory receptors, known as nociceptors, that are responsible for feeling pain in humans are not present in sharks.

Many of the tags are attached to the shark fins, which don’t have a nerve supply. What you see when sharks are being tagged is not responding to injury, rather unconscious reflexes.

Attaching tags to shark fins doesn’t cause damage

Tags mounted to shark fins may cause fin irritation but there is no evidence that suggests that it impacts the survival of sharks.

In fact, sharks are well known for having remarkable healing power and just like fingernails, shark fins can regenerate to a large extent. For example, male sharks are known for biting the fins of female sharks to enable mating. In some instances, the biting of the fin can cause extreme damage – far more than tagging.

When it comes to shark tagging, most tags are non-permanent: some tags are programmed to detach at a certain stage, but most corrode off or fall out. However, this cannot be said for all shark tagging as some research teams use different methods.

But again, there has been no record of shark tagging damaging or threatening the survival of sharks.

Publishing shark movements don’t make them more vulnerable to exploitation

Shark poaching is everywhere, except where sharks are already protected and properly managed.

Unfortunately, there is no place in the world where sharks are safe from fishing. Did you know that the fishing industry is way ahead of scientists? In fact, it’s scientists who are actually trying to catch up with the fishing industry in terms of knowing where sharks are. The fishing industry is known for hiring oceanographic data analysts to identify potential fishing hot spots.

For researchers, tracking data helps conservation management as well as generate public awareness and support from the public. The online tracking system has a time-delay to prevent the “wrong” people from finding and catching tracked sharks.

Shark tracking data helps with shark conservation

There have been instances where policymakers were unable to conserve threatened sharks due to a lack of appropriate data on shark movements and behaviours, which tagging and tracking can help with. Vessels Monitoring Systems (VMS) is used by management agencies to set protection boundaries around shark aggregations or ensure that fishing vessels aren’t moving into core areas that sharks use.

There are more benefits of tagging and tracking data, which include:

  • Determine where sharks are most likely to interact with fishing activities
  • Evaluate if marine protected sites are sufficiently sized and adequate to protect sharks
  • Predict impact climate change on shark movement and distribution.

Electronic tags don’t interfere with shark senses

There’s no evidence that electronic tags interfere with shark senses. The power of the tag needs to be trapped to the underside of a shark’s snout in order for it to interfere a shark’s senses or behaviour – something unlikely to happen, considering that they’re attached to the fin.

To learn more about these mysterious sea creatures, be sure to try a Great White Shark Tour, and have all your questions about sharks answered by the knowledgeable guide.



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