Tagging and tracking the Great White sharks of South Africa


Mention the word ‘shark’ while at the beach, and you might just get a couple of unfriendly stares. But without any expert knowledge, there is really no way in telling what is lurking beyond the breakers.

Luckily oceanic tracking company Ocearch can help out researchers and sunbathers alike with their really cool interactive map. Ocearch tracks a vast number of different sharks that were tagged and released around the world, and displays them on their website.

Every time a tagged shark surfaces, a ping is sent to the company, who then plots their position. The majority of the tracked sharks swim around the South African and North American coasts – some of the busiest areas for shark activities.

“Ocearch expeditions – through the support of Caterpillar and other partners such as Costa, Yeti, Yamaha, Contender, SAFE boats and Mustad – generate satellite tracks and other forms of data for sharks, with planned expansion to other species in the future. Seventeen research expeditions have been conducted to date, with seven more scheduled through the end of 2015,” the company explains on their website.

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The most recently tracked shark around South Africa is ‘Philip’ – a 3.2 meter, immature White shark. According to the data on the website, Philip was tagged in 2012 off the coast of Gansbaai, and weighs 347kg. In the last 72 hours, he has travelled almost 240 km, slowly making his way up the West coast.

In recent days, a giant immature White shark named Katharine has captured the attention of enthusiasts and press on the US east coast. Swimming up and down from Savannah, Georgia to Key West in Florida, she weighs over a ton, is 4.3 meters in length, and has clocked in over 6 200km in her lifetime.

“Katharine, who was tagged off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, was named by Cat Products fans in honor of Katharine Lee Bates, a Cape Cod native and songwriter – best known for her poem and song ‘America The Beautiful’,” Ocearch stated.

She also has her own Twitter account @Shark_Katharine, with her biography reading “Misunderstood girl swimming around tryin’ to get some fish.” Fans of the hefty swimmer has been posting messages of encouragement using #GoKatGo.

But on a serious note, one of Ocearch’s goals are to educate the public about sharks, and that they shouldn’t be feared.

“In a collaborative environment established by Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader Chris Fischer, OCEARCH enables leading researchers and institutions to generate previously unattainable data on the movement, biology and health of sharks to protect their future while enhancing public safety and education.”

[Source, Image – Ocearch]

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