Australian Researchers Hope to Save Sharks by Listening to Them

posted: 06/02/15
by: Danny Clemens
Sand tiger shark in South Africa

They say that you should listen more than you talk, and shark researchers in Australia are taking that advice to heart. A fascinating program from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is taking advantage of listening stations to track the movements of sand tiger sharks in an attempt to beef up efforts to conserve the threatened species.

Through the data collected by the acoustic listening stations, authorities hope to find ways to reduce the species' interactions with humans. According to DPI researcher Dr. Nick Otway, fishing hooks are a major threat to the sharks off of the Australian coast.

Because of the sand tiger shark's ability to quickly travel far distances, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where fish hookings (and other negative interactions with humans) may have occurred.

"The sharks can be caught in one location and then sighted at another location, because they can travel great distances overnight," Otway told ABC. "So going from one location to the next location overnight, somebody jumps in the water and sees the animal there, they've assumed that it got hooked at that particular location. That's not correct."

The initiative is part of a larger effort to save the grey nurse shark. For several years now, DPI has employed "tagging technologies, including acoustic listening station networks, satellite tagging and photo identification," to track the sharks.

Also known as the grey nurse shark, the sand tiger shark is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Overfishing has contributed to the species' decline, as the shark is highly valued for its liver oil and its fins.

Click here to learn more from ABC

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