Have You Seen this Tag?

Mote scientists are seeking the public’s help locating a satellite tag that had been used to track a female whale shark earlier this summer.

The tag, attached to a whale shark nicknamed “Sara” on May 28, was transmitting information about the shark’s movements to Mote scientist Dr. Robert Hueter daily. It showed that from her initial tagging location just off Sarasota’s coast, the shark traveled south toward Sanibel Island and then came north again to an area off the coast near Crystal River.

Then, on July 2, the information transmitted by the tag changed: Instead of recording temperature variations that would indicate dives typical of whale sharks, the tag was reporting relatively constant temperature readings. “Over our seven years of research with whale sharks, we know that the animals dive deep and that the water temperatures at those depths are colder,” Hueter said. “Instead, the readings we were getting more closely mirrored sea surface temperatures. After several days of similar readings, we concluded that the tag had prematurely detached and was floating free.”

The tag — which is black and torpedo shaped and has Mote information written on the side — could have detached for any number of reasons and now scientists hope to recover it in order to understand why it detached, and possibly use the tag again. Each satellite tag of this type costs $1,900.

While the tag had continued to transmit its location to researchers as it floated at the mercy of the wind and water currents, the scientists have since turned off its satellite link to save those additional transmission costs, which can run hundreds of dollars. “The readings are typically12 hours behind the tag’s actual location and since we really weren’t learning any further information about our research topic — whale shark movements — or couldn’t use the location information to retrieve the tag itself, we made the decision to turn it off,” Hueter said. “Now, we’re hoping that the public will spot it either floating in the Gulf or washed up on the beach and get the tag back to us.”

Mote will pay the shipping cost for the return of the tag and will provide the returner with a special Mote Center for Shark Research shark tagger’s cap. Please call 941-388-1827 or 800-691-MOTE (6683) ext. 323 if the tag is spotted. (Please Note: Mote's tag looks like the tag in the picture above, except that Mote's tag is black.)

>Click here to see a map of the shark's travels.

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Mote Marine Laboratory has been a leader in marine research since it was founded in 1955. Today, we incorporate public outreach as a key part of our mission. Mote is an independent nonprofit organization and has seven centers for marine research, the public Mote Aquarium and an Education Division specializing in public programs for all ages.

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