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Porbeagle Sharks Tagged & Tracked Online by Marine Institute

25th October 2012
Porbeagle Sharks Tagged & Tracked Online by Marine Institute

#shark – October 2012 marks an important milestone for the Marine Institute and Irish Elasmobranch Group's porbeagle shark tagging project as five more porbeagles have been tagged off the Donegal coast by the project's expert shark angler, Peter McAuley. The project, which has been ongoing since 2008, is now offering the public an opportunity to track the movements of two sharks in near real time on the Irish Elasmobranch Group's website,

Five sharks were tagged with conventional pop-up satellite tags, which will record the sharks' location and depth, over a nine month period. After this, the tags are programmed to detach, float to the surface and transmit the data to orbiting satellites. In addition to the pop-up tags, two of the tagged sharks were fitted with Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting (SPOT) tags. These tags are fitted on to the dorsal fin of the sharks and each time the fin breaks the water's surface, a position is transmitted to an orbiting satellite. This allows the sharks to be tracked in near real time and it is believed that this is the first time these tags have ever been fitted on porbeagles. The tags should function for at least the next year, providing a completely new insight into the behaviour of these sharks.

Porbeagle sharks, which are a very timid species of shark, can grow to over three metres and 250 kilograms, and are one of the largest predatory sharks in Irish waters, feeding on fish. Once the target of intensive commercial fishing, the porbeagle shark is now considered to be critically endangered in the northeast Atlantic by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Since 2010, fishing for porbeagles has been banned in European waters; however, as little is known about its biology or ecology, such effective conservation measures are difficult to implement. The research team, comprising Dr. Ryan Saunders, Dr. Maurice Clarke and Dr. Edward Farrell, are attempting to understand the biology and ecology of the porbeagle shark by using advanced satellite linked tagging techniques. The project has already yielded some very important results, the most notable of which was the tagging of one shark, a juvenile male, that migrated over 2400 km from Ireland to Madeira. The movement of porbeagles from European waters to African waters was previously unknown and it has important implications for the conservation and management of the species.

In 2011 the research team was successful in attaining funding from both the Swiss based Save Our Seas Foundation and the German based Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU) to continue the project and to build on the important findings already made. Given the large scale movements of porbeagles, collaborations were also developed with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) in the UK and with the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER).

These five newly tagged sharks also need names so a competition is being organised in collaboration with Galway Atlantaquaria which will give school children the chance to name these five sharks. Details about the competition are available on the Irish Elasmobranch Group website.

Published in Marine Wildlife Team

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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