Current & Recent Projects

Through laboratory and field research, Mote scientists study the abundance and movement patterns, population dynamics, behavior and health, and fisheries biology of sharks and rays, and promote science-based conservation of depleted shark and ray populations. The Program has been a leader in advancing the causes of shark conservation worldwide since 1988, and today we are spearheading an exciting initiative to help imperiled reef sharks around the world.

  • Expanding the Global FinPrint:
    Working with data from the the world's largest shark survey—the recently completed Global FinPrint Project—we are partnering with local grassroots organizations, governments and fisher-folk in countries with high conservation potential for reef sharks. We are directing funding and scientific support to these people so that they can implement management approaches that are likely to work both for reef sharks and people.
    Details about this project are shared on our program homepage.
  • Research and conservation of spotted eagle rays in the U.S., Mexico and Cuba:
    In 2009, Mote researchers initiated a new conservation research project on the life history, reproduction, and population status of the spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari), a protected species in Florida but a vulnerable species in the rest of its range.  The project's goals are twofold: Gain knowledge about populations of this ray in the Gulf of Mexico and northwestern Caribbean Sea, through field studies of behavior and migration and lab studies of population structure, and raise public awareness and enhance conservation outreach and education on spotted eagle rays in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and around the world.
    Spotted eagle rays are harvested in Mexico and Cuba, mostly as food, and this fishing pressure, combined with their extremely low reproductive rate, make these rays a vulnerable species. But there is not enough information to determine how much danger they are in. The distribution, migration, feeding habits, growth rates and reproductive biology of spotted eagle rays are poorly defined. The current project began as a collaboration with the National Aquarium in Baltimore but since has expanded into a full research program supported by several funding sources, including the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, the Save Our Seas Foundation and the Georgia Aquarium.  Mote biologists have sampled, tagged and released hundreds of spotted eagle rays off the Southwest Florida coast to gain a better understanding of their population structure and migratory habits in the Gulf of Mexico.  We have noted a declining trend in numbers of rays observed in aerial and boat surveys has been seen, raising concerns about this species’ status.  The program is also working in Mexico and Cuba to understand fisheries pressure in those countries and collect genetic samples for population analysis for the region.

Other current and recent projects include:

  • Studies of whale shark behavior, ecology and ecotourism in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
     
  • Satellite and conventional tagging studies of shark abundance, distribution and migration in the Northwest Atlantic, including studies of bull sharks, great hammerheads and white sharks.
     
  • Relative abundance surveys of blacktip sharks in Southwest Florida nursery areas.
     
  • Studies of post-release survival and behavior of sharks in recreational and commercial fisheries.
     
  • Shark biology, fisheries assessment and resolution of fishing-tourism conflicts in Cuba and Mexico.
     
  • Development of multinational approaches to shark fisheries management and conservation.
     
  • Connecting science to the recreational fishing community to improve shark conservation.
     
  • Science-based linkages to public policy and application of science diplomacy in international issues and relations.
     

Other Mote Research Programs View All