“We’ve had some of our tagged makos take some pretty interesting tracks over the years, but this one swims above the rest,” said researcher Mahmood Shivji.
A mako shark has set a new record, having traveled the equivalent of halfway around Earth. According to the tracking data, the tagged male shark named Hell’s Bay has logged 13,000 miles in the Atlantic Ocean.
“We’ve had some of our tagged makos take some pretty interesting tracks over the years, but this one swims above the rest,” Mahmood Shivji, a professor of oceanography and director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at the Nova Southeastern University, said in a news release. “Having Hell’s Bay report for as long as he has is fantastic because we’re able to really get a detailed look at mako migration behavior over a good amount of time. He was like the Energizer bunny — he kept going and going and going, and luckily did not get captured like many of our other sharks.”
Scientists at the Guy Harvey Research Institute have been tracking Hell’s Bay since they caught and tagged him off the coast of Maryland in May 2015. Though the large mackerel shark has spent much his time hunting in the waters off the Maryland shore, he has made sporadic treks north and south, as far as Nova Scotia and Bermuda.
As one of the fastest large predators in the ocean, makos can make long distances disappear rather easily. The shortfin mako shark, Isurus oxyrinchus, has been clocked at speeds of more than 60 miles per hour.
Tagging has helped illuminate many of the mysteries of the ocean’s largest predators, and also revealed their vulnerability to man-made threats. Nearly a quarter of makos tagged by scientists have ended up caught and killed by commercial and recreational fishermen.
“That highlights what mako sharks face on a daily basis in their natural habitat,” Shivji said. It’s something we have to work around, but every time we lose a shark we lose another opportunity to learn about these magnificent animals.”
Though there are signs some shark populations are up the rebound — the great white is doing better than it was a decade ago — the ocean’s most iconic predators remain threatened.
It’s estimated between 70 and 100 million sharks are killed every year.
And as recent research has revealed, large predators serve as vital ballast for a healthy, balanced food chain and provide many under-appreciated ecological benefits.