White sharks tracked with new tagging technology

A new device allows researchers at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy to tag sharks with tracking devices without having to capture and handle them. — Courtesy Atlantic White Shark Co

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC) recently implemented a new minimally invasive shark tagging technology that allows scientists to tag sharks with tracking devices without capturing and handling them, according to a press release.

With tracking technology, called Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting (SPOT) tags, shark researchers can now use a Tag Attachment Device pole (TADpole) to insert the tracker into the shark’s fin, without having to capture the shark or disturb it.

When the shark surfaces, the SPOT tag transmits a radio signal to an overhead satellite,

which estimates and relays the location of the shark back to researchers within hours.

Scientists on the AWSC research vessel recently deployed two SPOT tags using the new TADpole device in the waters off Cape Cod. 

Normally, the press release states, SPOT tags are manually attached by drilling a hole in the shark’s dorsal fin, whereas this method allows researchers to attach the tracking device safely from the research vessel. 

According to the release, The TADpole was developed by a team of scientists and engineers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), with support from Dolphin Quest, Inc. and the Dolphin Biology Research Institute. The tool was conceived by Randall Wells, of the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, and Michael Moore, Tom Lanagan, and Jason Kapit of WHOI, to tag free-swimming dolphins. 

“We are thrilled that this tagging tool has conservation applications and benefits beyond our initial ideas.” Kapit said in the release. “This success is a perfect example of how technology development can expand the possibilities and reach of scientific research, even beyond the originally intended applications”.