Update: Longfin Mako Tagged in ‘Tiburones’ Transmits Surprising Data

posted: 08/20/15
by: Danny Clemens
Longfin Mako from Tiburones

Our Shark Week 2015 special Tiburones: Sharks of Cuba gave viewers an unprecedented glimpse at the rich biodiversity found in Cuban waters, including a look at the elusive longfin mako shark (Isurus paucus).

During the February filming of the special, a U.S.-Cuban team including Dr. Bob Hueter and his colleagues at Mote Marine Laboratory successfully satellite tagged one of the rare sharks, one of only a handful of longfin makos ever tagged. Six months later, the shark's satellite tag has phoned home, beaming back a treasure trove of valuable -- and unexpected -- data about the poorly understood species.

Between February and July, the shark traveled from northern Cuba through the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida and up the eastern seaboard to New Jersey, ultimately landing 125 miles off of the coast of Virginia. At that point, the satellite tag was preprogrammed to detach from the shark, float to the ocean surface and transmit. Over its five-month voyage, the shark traveled more than 5,500 miles.

"The amazing thing is this longfin mako's tag popped up in nearly the same exact location as another one we tagged in the northeastern portion of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico a few years ago," explains Associate Researcher with Mote Marine Laboratory John Tyminski.

"The movement patterns of the two sharks are remarkably similar: both sharks were in the eastern Gulf in April/May, showed comparable movements through the Straits of Florida, and ended in a similar area off Chesapeake Bay in July. Both tags came off during the month of July and both sharks were mature males. Clearly there's something in that location that's attracting mature males in summer."

What's not clear, however, is exactly what attracts the sharks to that location.

"July is possibly a month when mating might be occurring," Hueter speculates. "They could be there just for feeding, or could be simply passing through on their way elsewhere."

The mako's vertical path is also of interest to the team at Mote. Water pressure data collected by the tag revealed that the shark dove more than a mile beneath the ocean's surface, to a depth where the water temperature is near freezing. Again, it's not immediately clear why the shark dove so deep, but Hueter speculates that it may have dove in search of food. Much of the shark's time was spent at less than 1,640 feet (500 meters) below the surface.

One thing, however, is clear: further research is needed to truly understand the remarkable longfin mako shark, which is currently classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN. According to Hueter, the shark's journey also underscores the notion that global cooperation is integral to the success of conservation efforts:

"The fact that these sharks go back and forth among the waters of multiple nations - in this case, Cuba, the United States, the Bahamas and Mexico - shows the importance of coordinating our fisheries sustainability and conservation efforts on a multilateral, even global, scale," he said.

"Clearly it is important for the U.S. and Cuba to work together to protect vulnerable marine resources like these rare and depleted species of sharks."

Mote's expedition was a good start: it took several years to obtain the permits necessary to collaborate with Cuban researchers. The multinational team included scientists from Cuba's Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research, the University of Havana and other Cuban institutions.

An updated version of Tiburones: Sharks of Cuba will air on Discovery at 7 p.m. on August 30 during Shweekend. Until then, check out this exclusive preview clip:

show more details
A Rare Longfin Mako in Cuban Waters

About the blog:
Shark Feed Description
More on