The map shows the area of coast that is marked by buoys and wave gliders

Tracking sharks on your mobile with Shark Net

Shark Net
Shark Net

Scientists working off the coast of California in the US have released an app for iOs mobile devices that enables users to track great white shark movements in (virtually) real time. Making use of a network of fixed buoys and drifting wave gliders. The initiative is part of the Global Tagging of Pelagic Predators project, which uses tags and listening devices to track the movements of migratory ocean species such as tuna, turtles, marlin, and several kinds of shark.

The map shows the area of coast that is marked by buoys and wave gliders
The map shows the area of coast that is marked by buoys and wave gliders

The white sharks for which this app (called “Shark Net“) shows the tracking data are equipped with acoustic tags. When they pass within about 300 metres of a wave glider or fixed buoy, a signal is registered, the shark’s location is calculated, and the data is sent to a listening station with a central repository of shark tracking data. The system obviously only tracks sharks that are tagged, and only when they pass near a buoy. The technology for the wave gliders is pretty nifty.

The information collected by the scientists is useful for identifying the hotspots along the Californian coast where white sharks congregate in late summer (much as our local white sharks move inshore at the start of summer) after spending time further offshore at the Farallon Islands and beyond. It also helps to identify “highways” or particular routes that the sharks favour to move between feeding locations. Allowing the public to view the data as it is being collected serves several purposes – not least, allowing us to see these creatures as they move about in their domain, to form attachments to them and to develop a special interest in their behaviour, and to understand something of how scientists work to understand the ocean ecosystem and its inhabitants.

Each tagged shark has a bio and photograph included in the app
Each tagged shark has a bio and photograph included in the app

You should also check out the GTOPP publications page which has pdf downloads of the research that the program has produced.

Año Nuevo is the site of an elephant seal breeding colony and hosts an underwater receiver
Año Nuevo is the site of an elephant seal breeding colony and hosts an underwater receiver

You can download the app here. It’s free!

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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