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Tagged shark breaks travel distance record

Hell’s Bay, a male mako shark, has shattered records by traveling the equivalent of halfway around the globe over the course of 600 days. The shark swam more than 13,000 miles in the longest recorded journey through the Atlantic Ocean by a mako shark tagged by researchers, according to the experts tracking him at Nova Southeastern University. 

“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, professor at NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography and director at the university’s Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI), said in a statement. 

“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.”

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Hell’s Bay was tagged by researchers off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland, back in May 2015, and in the shark’s first year of travel after that, he swam north along the U.S. east coast. This past year, he stayed near the coast of Maryland before heading north to  Nova Scotia, then down just south of Bermuda, before coming right back to Ocean City. 

The shark, who was named after Florida-based boat manufacturer Hell’s Bay Boatworks, was shown to make the same seasonal patterns year to year. He spent the winter and early spring offshore and then the remainder of the year closer to shore. 

The mako — the fastest type of shark — is thought of as the “cheetah of the shark species” and can swim at speeds of up to a remarkable 60 mph. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF), a nonprofit that conducts research as well as hosts conservation-based educational programs, funds the tags used to track sharks like Hell’s Bay. Capt. Chris Peterson, the owner of the boat manufacturer that shares Hell’s Bay’s name, sponsored his tracking tag.

“These satellite tags allow us to follow sharks in near real time,” Greg Jacoski, GHOF’s executive director, said in the press release. “Understanding where these animals travel and the habitat that they use is the first step to better conserving the species.”

This research is significant because these speedy sharks are in danger. The GHRI reports that 22 percent of the makos that have tags were caught and in some cases killed by recreational and commercial fishermen.

Shivji said that this is indicative of the threats that all sharks face worldwide. He said that somewhere between 70 to 100 million sharks are killed globally per year.

“That highlights what mako sharks face on a daily basis in their natural habitat,” Shivji stressed. “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.”

If you want to follow Hell’s Bay as he travels the globe, you can track him here.

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