RI Researcher Urges Anglers to Release His Tagged Makos
July 27, 2016
ecoRI.org: It’s the peak of shark fishing season, when hundreds of fishermen enter tournaments throughout southern New England and Long Island to catch the biggest shark. It has Bradley Wetherbee worried.
The University of Rhode Island shark researcher knows that one mako shark he tagged off the coast of Maryland last year — which a sponsor named Charlotte — arrived in Rhode Island waters last week after a yearlong, 6,500-mile journey. And given his track record of having his tagged sharks captured and killed by commercial and recreational fishermen, Wetherbee has his fingers crossed that Charlotte survives the month.
“Makos are caught in all kinds of fisheries all around the world,” he said. “They’re the shark everyone wants to catch because they’re good to eat — like a shark version of swordfish — and they fight and jump and put up a big battle.
“But it takes a great deal of effort and money to catch and track sharks, and we don’t want to see our research subjects captured and killed and lose their contribution to science.”
Wetherbee doesn’t object to shark fishing. In fact, his research is aimed at collecting information about the animals so they can be better managed. He just hopes that any fisherman who catches Charlotte or any other shark with a satellite tracking tag on its fin will release the shark unharmed.
Little is known about the health of mako shark populations, the migratory routes they travel, or their preferred feeding grounds. Wetherbee hopes his research will help to answer some of those questions. Makos are especially difficult to manage because they travel through the waters of dozens of countries, thereby requiring significant international cooperation to protect them from overfishing.