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Shark Researchers Say Apex Predators Still Needed

George Schellenger/GHOF
Mako shark

The folks who work at the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University are hoping that people will come to understand the critical link between sharks and ourselves.

Researchers at NSU are doing shark genome mapping, to try to discover health benefits for people. 

Spokesman Joe Donzelli says Floridians should care more than most people because the state's economy depends on the ocean for tourism.

“And the health of the ocean - whether it’s the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast, The Caribbean and the Florida Straits to the bottom of the state and the Atlantic on the east coast - if you don't have healthy ecosystems, diving, fishing, boating, all of those things that take place out there are going to suffer,” he said.  

Donzelli says 100 million sharks die each year. That’s either because of long-line fishing, or death by accident, but mostly because of the practice of killing them to make shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy in some cultures.

And spokesman Joe Donzelli says scientists hope deep sea fishermen will return tagged sharks to the water, if they catch them by mistake. Or at the very least, return the tracking devices, which can cost as much as $8,000 apiece.

“But we really ask them, please if you can, return them to the ocean, the longer they're out there, the better we are able to make decisions,” Donzelli said.

Decisions scientists can share with governments or other stake-holders to establish fishing zones and also protect mating grounds for sharks.

The general public can track tagged sharks that prowl deep ocean waters at NSU’s Guy Harvey Research Institute website.

And for those who want a more “hands-on” experience, there’s an opportunity to ride along on the research vessel and help to tag sharks, but you’ll have to pay your own way to go. And Donzelli cautions anyone prone to seasickness that there’s no turning back once the boat heads out to sea for what is often a day-long journey.

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