Tuesday, 14 June 2016 07:42

Ocearch and its Ladies

We have all heard of them, but here’s a little more detail for you . . .

OCEARCH is a non-profit organisation with a global reach for unprecedented ocean-based research seeking to attain groundbreaking data on the movement, biology and health of apex predators to protect their future, while enhancing public safety. The researchers work aboard the M/V OCEARCH, a 126' Cat powered vessel equipped with a 75,000 lb. hydraulic research platform, and 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. The satellite tag is bolted to their dorsal fins and should last about four or five years. It's a real-time tracking device that sends location data to satellites every time the tag breaks the ocean's surface. The satellites send the data to researchers who can then track the animals.

Meet the ladies:

Since she was tagged with a locator device off Jacksonville, Florida, on March 3, 2013, Lydia has travelled more than 56,000 kilometres over the mid-Atlantic ridge toward Europe and western Africa then back again. Another tracking tag indicated that she dives more than 1,000 metres deep.She appears to be navigating a pattern that had her making a beeline for the Florida coast almost exactly two years to the day she was tagged. In both years she swam from the southeastern United States up to the waters off Newfoundland before heading out into the open North Atlantic.

Almost 4,000 Twitter fans are following the five-metre, 1,400-kilogram shark believed to be in her late 20s or early 30s. They can trace Lydia’s exploits each time her fin breaks water, pinging new data by satellite to computer trackers.

Emerging from Lydia’s pings, is a long term view of one of the ocean’s top predators that is revamping what researchers thought they knew. Thanks to Lydia, scientists have realised that their hypothesized habitat scope for Great Whites, was much smaller than it actually is. “We’re talking about a habitat that spans the entire North Atlantic Ocean. That’s amazing, and we’re getting all that from Lydia.”

It’s hoped that the battery on her fin device will hold out for another three years, allowing researchers to fill in gaps, such as where she might give birth. Understanding Lydia’s habitat will help craft conservation plans to protect Great Whites as a vital part of ocean ecosystems.

Then there’s pretty Mary Lee. Scientists first tagged Mary Lee off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in September 2012. The 16-foot-long (4.9-meter) animal is no slouch either; Lydia is broader scale in terms of movement north and east, but Mary Lee's been all over the map as well. This lady has travelled a total of 19,474 miles (31,340 kilometers) since she was tagged three years ago."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."

Download Shark Tracker to keep up to date of these first ladies of the seas . . .

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