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Completed Projects of the Shark Foundation

The Shark Foundation has been supporting various shark protection projects since 1997. Some projects have already been successfully completed. Others had to be stopped prematurely due to a lack of results or insufficient cooperation.


Index

  2012
> Examination of sharks for symptoms of stress
> Juvenile lemon sharks diet
> Impacts of catch-release fishing on elasmobranch fishes
> Individual, sex- and species-specific behaviour in three species of reef sharks, Fiji

2010
> Shark information project Hong Kong

2007
> Bull shark migrations Fidji (Subproject 1)
> Tracking Workshop at the AES annual meeting

2006
> Migrations in the Gulf of Mexico
> Local Fishery in Tamil Nadu

2002
> Behavioral Research
> Shark Inventory
> Whale Sharks
> Deep-sea Sharks

2000
> Molecular-biological examinations of white sharks


2012

 
Examination of sharks for symptoms of stress   Sharks are subjected to various stress factors when they are caught. The objective of this study is to determine on the one hand if and how various shark species react to stress and which catch methods are best suited for their scientific examination. For his studies, the veterinarian, M. Hyatt used the well prepared infrastructure of the shark nursery project in Ten Thousand Islands (Florida, USA). Hyatt examined three shark species: bonnethead, bull and lemon sharks and studied their reactions to being caught with longlines, respectively nets, also taking into account the water temperature. The degree of stress was determined based on carbon dioxide, carbonic acid and lactate blood parameters measured shortly before the catch and shortly prior to their release. He was able to prove that despite the hooks, longline catches caused less stress than nets, probably because they can still move around and breathe relatively freely. However, strong differences were also observed between the individual species. Bonnethead sharks are considerably more sensitive than lemon sharks, while bull sharks hardly manifest any signs of stress. However, all species have one thing in common: the higher the water temperature, the higher the lack of oxygen and hence the higher probability of death.
The conclusions reached by these scientific studies on sharks are thus clear: Longlines should have preference over nets; catch instruments must be controlled frequently to minimize any possible stress on the sharks; various species react differently to stress, with bonnetheads being especially sensitive; and the warmer the water, the faster the procedure should be carried out.
These results are also extremely important when it comes to tagging sharks with very expensive satellite transmitters. The higher the survival rate of a tagged shark, the more data can be evaluated with the satellite transmitters. On board the ship it is easy to determine the carbon dioxide, carbonic acid and lactate blood parameters. The survival rate of sharks that are caught to be tagged can be strongly increased using blood buffers that are attuned to the specific weight of the shark.
In 2011 a scientific publication was submitted that was published in 2012: > Publications
Project leader: Michael Hyatt
Total investments 2010/11: 9,500 CHF


Juvenile lemon sharks diet   In Bimini (Bahamas) a study was performed on whether the nutritional patterns of young lemon sharks change as a result of massive disruptions in their nursery environment (holiday resort, large-scale deforestation of mangroves). Results show that the species mix in the coastal region has hardly changed. Nevertheless, more extensive changes were noted in the juvenile sharks' hunting behavior and hence their prey. Their stomachs were found to increasingly contain such waste products as chicken bones, clams and nonindigenous fish, all of which clearly point to increased human influence. For young lemon sharks it is probably more energy efficient to feed off human waste products than to hunt actively themselves.
Project leader: Ornella Weideli (Master thesis University of Basel)
Total investments 2011: 3,600 CHF


Impacts of catch-release fishing on elasmobranch fishes   The Foundation supported the start-up financing of a larger project aimed at examining the effects of fishing on sharks. Sharks are also killed for research purposes, respectively scientists also use sharks which stem directly from commercial fishing or land as bycatch, or which are caught and killed by sport fishermen. The project studies the general ecological risks for sharks and evaluates various methods to acquire scientific data from living sharks.
One scientific publication appeared in 2011 and a second one was submitted and published in 2012: > Publications
Project leader: Neil Hammerschlag
Total investments 2010/11: 9,500 CHF


Individual, sex- and species-specific behaviour in three species of reef sharks, Fiji   This project examined the spectrum of shy to bold traits with regard to intra- and interspecific and sexual differences between these three shark species. Results showed clear distinctions between the individual species and the sexes.
Project leader: Kirsty Richards and Jürg Brunnschweiler
Total investments 2011: 4,500 CHF


 

2010

 
Shark information project Hong Kong
  Hong Kong is the international fin trade hub. More than 70 % of all shark fins are transported via Hong Kong to the asian markets and especially mainland China. The Shark Foundation supports a project of Alex Hofford and Paul Hilton, both resident in Hong Kong, to inform the Chinese an asian population on the massive negative impact of Shark Fin trade and consumption on the international shark populations.
In 2010 Alex and Paul could publish the book > MAN & SHARK (192 pages, Chinese and English). The book was produced with significant support of the Shark Foundation. The Shark Foundation financed this project with a total of CHF 15'000.00.


2007

 
Bull shark migrations Fidji (Subproject 1)  
We lack biological data for practically all shark species, especially on their precise geographical distribution areas, their migration behavior or reliable population numbers. This also applies to widely distributed species living in coastal areas, e.g. the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas).

Bull sharks
© Klaus Jost / Shark Foundation
Illustration: Bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas).
In areas where bull sharks can be seen regularly, observations over past years have shown that grown individuals leave these areas in the spring for two to four months and return in the summer. Where they migrate to during this time is not yet known, but presumably they visit their reproduction regions/nurseries during this time period.<br /><br />Early in 2003 an international research team launched a bull shark tagging program in the Bahamian waters. The purpose of this program is to find the bull shark nurseries and their migration routes, and in a second step to establish concepts for the protection of these areas.<br /><br />The experiences and results of the Bahama pilot project led to the initiation of a study on the migratory behavior of bull sharks near Fiji in 2004. Various bull sharks were tagged with satellite transmitters for this research program. At a fixed time, the transmitters come off the sharks and transmit data on the migratory routes, depth, temperatures etc. to satellites. The data is then evaluated using computer programs designed specifically for the project.<br />In a first phase three bull sharks were equipped with satellite transmitters programmed to release themselves from the sharks at the end of 2004 and then float to the water surface. In the course of 2004 additional bull sharks were tagged with such transmitters. At the end of 2004 the first data arrived and is ready for evaluation in 2005.  Tags
© Klaus Jost / Shark Foundation
Illustration: Preparing the highly complex transmitter.

In areas where bull sharks can be seen regularly, observations over past years have shown that grown individuals leave these areas in the spring for two to four months and return in the summer. Where they migrate to during this time is not yet known, but presumably they visit their reproduction regions/nurseries during this time period.

Early in 2003 an international research team launched a bull shark tagging program in the Bahamian waters. The purpose of this program is to find the bull shark nurseries and their migration routes, and in a second step to establish concepts for the protection of these areas.

The experiences and results of the Bahama pilot project led to the initiation of a study on the migratory behavior of bull sharks near Fiji in 2004. Various bull sharks were tagged with satellite transmitters for this research program. At a fixed time, the transmitters come off the sharks and transmit data on the migratory routes, depth, temperatures etc. to satellites. The data is then evaluated using computer programs designed specifically for the project.
In a first phase three bull sharks were equipped with satellite transmitters programmed to release themselves from the sharks at the end of 2004 and then float to the water surface. In the course of 2004 additional bull sharks were tagged with such transmitters. At the end of 2004 the first data arrived and is ready for evaluation in 2005.

Project Manager: Jürg Brunnschweiler

Ihe Foundation partially financed the project with CHF 19,000.


 
Tracking Workshop at the AES annual meeting   During the annual meeting of the biggest international elasmobranch association, the American Elasmobranch Society (AES), in New Orleans, Dr. Jürg Brunnschweiler organized a scientific worshop on "Tracking of Sharks". At the workshop, specialists discussed current and future technologies to track shark movements. The Shark Foundation and the US Shark Foundation co-sponsored the workshop. Gary Adkison, secretary of the US Shark Foundation, and Jürg Brunnschweiler gave talks on the topic.

Funding: 3'700 CHF



2006

 
Migrations in the Gulf of Mexico  
Bonnethead-hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna tiburo) prefer to live in coastal areas where they are also fished. In order to protect this shark species it is very important to know if losses in one area can be compensated by the immigration of animals from another, less intensively fished area.

A masters thesis by Markus Ruch in the Zoological Museum of Zurich University deals with this theme.
Bonnethead-hammerhead shark
© SeaPics / Shark Foundation
A bonnethead-hammerhead shark (Sphyrna tiburo).
Using molecular-biological parentage analysis of various bonnethead-hammerhead populations in the Gulf of Mexico it could be determined that certain populations in this area trade individuals to different degrees. The less trading of individuals, the more sensitive do these groups react to overfishing.

The Foundation was entrusted with scientific supervision (Manager Dr. Gaston D. Guex). It also procured the tissue samples from various regions and partially financed the project (currently totalling about CHF 5,000).

The masters thesis was submitted in January 2001 and accepted.
Publication: > Masters thesis on Bonnethead-hammerhead sharks
Hammerhead sharks in the Gulf of Mexico
© Shark Foundation
Genetic exchange with bonnethead-hammerhead sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. Black arrows: thin = minimum exchange, thick = high exchange


Local Fishery in Tamil Nadu   Together with the German ocean protection organization > Deepwave the Foundation gave financial support in 2006 for an educational campaign aimed at small fisheries in Tamil Nadu, India. Using panels and other information material, the campaign informed fishermen about overfishing in the region. The campaign pointed out the already strongly decimated shark populations and the harmful effects this has, not only on the fish but also on the fishermen who are robbed of medium-term income.
Investments approx. 1,600 CHF





2002

 
Behavioral Research   The Foundation supported a project initiated by Dr. E. Ritter up until the third quarter of 2001 with a total of CHF 94,000. Up until this time no concrete results in the two projects on shark conditioning and shark migrations could be presented, despite various requests. Except for a publication which did not directly relate to the projects, no additional scientific work was published in this area.

The Board of Trustees thus decided to stop supporting the two projects due to lack of results. Ritter was asked to return the underwater camera and the Foundation's VEMCO tracking material so that they could be used in other projects.

Total investments: approx. CHF 94,000
 
Shark Inventory   Inventory of the fauna in the Marine National Park in Walker's Cay by Dr. E. Ritter, with special consideration to sharks.

The project was ended by the Board of Trustees due to lack of results.
 
Whale Sharks   The bereaved family of a diver who lost his life in a tragic diving accident was asked to invest the money collected at the funeral for a whale shark protection project. Since the Foundation has no such project, the double amount was transferred to the Shark Research Institute in Princeton, N.J. (USA), for whale shark activities.

Total investment: For the present a single investment in 2002 of approx. CHF 3,700
 
Deep-sea Sharks   In the scope of cooperation with Mark Grace of NOAA/NMSF a research project for the identification of various deep-sea sharks in the Gulf of Mexico was supported.
Mrs. Claudia Bänsch delivered tissue samples for the Foundation's shark tissue collection, a research report as well as photographic material from her stay between October and November 2002.


Single investment 2002: approx. CHF 2’500
 


2000

Molecular-biological examinations of white sharks   In January 1999 the Shark Foundation held discussions with the responsible people in South Africa and decided – in cooperation with the Department for Ocean Fishing, the University of Stellenbosch and the South African Museum – to submit two projects for the protection of white sharks in South Africa. Both projects were accepted on March 3, 1999, with work beginning in the summer of 1999. The projects were for the most part carried out by employees of the Shark Foundation and the University of Zurich.

Despite several inquiries with the South African authorities no serious project cooperation could be achieved with them. In addition we lost our direct contact to Stellenbosch through the tragic death of Dr. D. Seady (University Stellenbosch).


At the end of 2000 the Board of Trustees thus decided to end the project. The CHF 40,000 set aside for these projects will flow into other projects.
 

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