VIA – MERC NEWS
Shark migration around Santa Cruz? There’s an app for that
SANTA CRUZ — If information is power, a new iPhone application that tracks white sharks could deliver a lot more fear or a lot more relief to surfers and other ocean users in Santa Cruz and along the coast in the coming months.
In January, the San Diego County-based Marine Conservation Science Institute released its Expedition White Shark app, which tracks 12 tagged white sharks in their migration from places like Año Nuevo Point and the Farallon Islands to feeding areas hundreds of miles offshore.
Two of the white sharks were tagged in Northern California and the rest were tagged off Baja California, said marine biologist Michael Domeier, president of the institute. The app coincides with a National Geographic Channel documentary “Expedition Great White”, which aired last year.
Despite the small sample size, Domeier said Santa Cruz ocean users might find the app useful in late summer to get an idea when the bulk of adult white sharks return.
“You should not use the app to know where and when to go surfing,” said Domeier. “But you can use it to know when they’re in coastal waters and when they’re not.”
Shark experts have long said that white sharks mistake surfers and other ocean users for prey such as seals and take investigatory bites. There have been about six attacks in the county since 1990 and they have generally been from October to January, according to California Department of Fish and Game data used in the app.
Domeier also cautioned that the tags only transmit when the shark is “finning” or swimming with its dorsal fin above water for several minutes. The satellite also has to be above the shark to record data.
“Because of that, there’s no pattern to the regularity of our signals. During migrations, they spend a lot more time at the surface and they tend to go in quite straight lines,” said Domeier.
Since the sharks were tagged in 2007 and 2009, the most data has been collected during migratory periods. The app uses Smart Position and Temperature — or SPOT tags, which some researchers have criticized because they are more permanent and more difficult to attach to the sharks than traditional temporary tags.
Domeier said the tags have allowed more data to be collected for longer periods.
The $3.99 app has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, not including an expanded version of the app for the iPad. Proceeds go to the nonprofit Marine Conservation Science Institute.
The app also includes the date and location of recent shark attacks in Santa Cruz County and…
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