The six tiger sharks that were fitted with satellite transmitters last month can now be tracked by the public online, along with eight more that were tagged in October, according to a Pacific Islands Ocean Observing Systems announcement Wednesday.
The website can be found at pacioos.org/projects/sharks.
University of Hawaii professor Carl Meyer and his team of researchers made their second shark-tagging trip to Maui in January, as part of a two-year, $186,000 study commissioned by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources last year. The team caught, tagged and released nine tiger sharks in waters along the north shore and Olowalu and attached satellite transmitters to the fins of six of those sharks.
All of the six new tags are reporting back via satellite, but so far only two have provided messages clean enough to glean location fixes, the announcement said. This may be due to a combination of factors, including rough weather conditions, the sharks swimming at the surface less often and limited satellite coverage. The tracking device only records when a shark's dorsal fin breaches above the water, researchers said.
All caught sharks also are implanted with acoustic tags that transmit to underwater receivers deployed on the seafloor at sites around Maui.
Meyer said that all six of the newly tagged sharks bore fresh mating scars because it is currently tiger shark mating season. Researchers hope to determine whether major biological events such as pupping and mating draw tiger sharks to Maui, and whether those sharks leave afterward.
The largest tiger sharks that the public is currently able to track online are two 14.2-foot-long females.
Meyer said that the team plans to track tiger sharks tagged around Oahu to provide "a concurrent record for comparison with sharks tagged around Maui."
Researchers said previously that they expect to make a third shark-tagging trip to Maui in the next few months, focusing on areas along the island's west coast.