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Shark Week 2018: Interactive Map Shows How Commercial Fishing Threatens Sharks

Animals
Mexico, Guadalupe Island, Great White Shark (Carcharodon Carcharias). Dave Fleetham / Design Pics / Getty Images

As the Discovery Channel marks its 30th anniversary of Shark Week, it's important to remember that many populations of the iconic ocean predator are under threat from human activity, especially from commercial fishing.


On Monday, a new interactive map was launched to show the movements of 45 sharks tagged between 2012 and 2018. Their tracks, covering more than 150,000 miles total, were overlaid with commercial fishing traffic in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, showing the challenges shark populations encounter every day.

"Many species of large sharks remain highly vulnerable throughout our oceans, and the integration provided here highlights the magnitude of threats they face," said project leader Austin Gallagher, chief scientist and CEO of Beneath the Waves, in a press release provided to EcoWatch.

Sharks are often hunted for their fins or are killed as bycatch from fishing vessels. An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year.

"Highly mobile sharks, such as those reflected in this interactive map, often navigate through a gauntlet of fishing vessels with potential interactions," said project collaborator and shark expert Neil Hammerschlag at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in the press release." Many fishing gear types can put these sharks at risk, as both target and bycatch—especially in the international waters of the high seas where no catch limits exist for many shark species."

Tagged species include blue, tiger, shortfin mako, great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, porbeagle and dusky sharks. Their tracks were added to Global Fishing Watch, an online platform launched two years ago by Google, Oceana and SkyTruth "to provide the world's first global view of commercial fishing activities."

The map shows the incredible distances the tagged sharks traveled. One 7-foot-8-inch adult male shortfin mako shark named "Oscar" traveled more than 22,000 miles in less than two years. Another 8-foot-4-inch adult male blue shark named "Buzz" traveled 3,000 south from Cape Cod, past the Caribbean to South America

The current map provides historical data but the team eventually hopes to display information in real time, Fast Company reported.

"We're hoping to expand and collaborate with more researchers to not only get more shark data but then other marine wildlife data as well, so that we can really create this interactive map platform that shows all types of marine wildlife and how they're interacting with fishing vessels," Lacey Malarky, an analyst with the illegal fishing and seafood fraud campaign at Oceana, told the website.

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