An eight-foot great hammerhead shark spent 62 days under surveillance as it swam from the sun-splashed shallows of the Keys to icy water several hundred miles to the Northeast.
Scientists at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science tagged the shark with a satellite-tracking device to begin establishing the regions that are important to the species, as a first step in protecting them from being fished out of the ocean. It is the first time a great hammerhead has been satellite tracked.
Shark populations have plummeted over the past 20 years or so because of demand in China and other Asian countries for shark fin soup, a delicacy that can command up to $50 a bowl. Hammerhead fins are among the most prized for soup.
As the hammerhead followed prey up the Gulf Stream and out into the open ocean, it traveled a straight line distance of 745 miles, far beyond the species' previous northern-most sighting in North Carolina. The last track found it about 300 miles off the coast of New Jersey.
"This study provides evidence that great hammerheads can migrate into international waters, where these sharks are vulnerable to illegal fishing," said Neil Hammerschlag, director of the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the Rosenstiel School. "By knowing the areas where they are vulnerable to exploitation we can help generate information useful for conservation and management of this species."