Back in August we caught our 4th Pacific Sleeper shark. This animal was tagged with a Wildlife Computers mini-PAT (satellite pop-up tag) and then was released right off Caines Head in Resurrection Bay. The mini-PAT had been scheduled to detach itself 90 days after deployment, which was Monday.
And right on schedule, on Monday, the tag started reporting.
When the tag released from our previous shark, the data suggested that over the course of a 10 day window the animal hadn’t moved out of the general Resurrection Bay area where we had caught it.
For SP18-04, after 90 days of data collection the tag first reported from an inaccessible location west of Montague Island by Prince William Sound, over 90 km away! With winter weather settling in over Alaska, we didn’t have high hopes of being able to go all the way out there to find it….but incredibly, just two days later it had drifted west, rounded Cape Res, and snuck into Resurrection Bay, just as sea conditions were improving.
Now it was within reach of a short boat trip!
Those of you that have seen these dark grey, small and unobtrusive tags, realize how much of a wild goose chase for the proverbial needle in the haystack this was, especially for a tag floating at sea (see our previous blog). Undeterred, with the help of many, we went out to track it down. Our team consisted of: Jared, Richard, Renae, Brandon and me from ASLC, and Nicole and Colby Lawrence as captains from Major Marine. Through Tom Tougas, Major Marine kindly made their M/V Freedom available for a run on very short notice (basically this morning).
We did have an approximate location via the satellite information (Argos / CLS), but the accuracy could only get to to within about ½ mile, and with a 30 min lag. Thankfully, our handy goniometer came to the rescue again (a high tech, $10k RDF for Argos tags) that was expertly set up and operated by Renae and Brandon.
Following the bearing, we maneuvered the boat up to a patch of flotsam in the middle of Resurrection Bay near Calisto Head. After some careful scanning, we saw a small wire sticking out of the patch of kelp! We quickly swooped up the kelp…
The excellent RDF work by Renae, and piloting by Nicole placed us right on top of it, where against all odds we were able to recover the tag in less than an hour at sea.
So, we are now two for two in recovering tags from sharks. As we’ve mentioned before, the recovered tags give us access to much more data than the tags can ever transmit. It felt like striking gold – a gold needle in a haystack (or in this case… a kelp-stack?).
Thanks to all who helped make this happen!!!
Stay tuned for more details on the data we have recovered from these first two tags.
Written by: Markus Horning, ASLC Science Director
This work is funded by a grant from the North Pacific Research Board.
All activities pictured and described here were permitted under ADF&G Aquatic Resource Permit #CF-18-041