Great White Sharks Behavior and Location Monitored with GPS Trackers

9 Oct 2012

If you thought the mystery of the great white shark was going to remain hidden forever, you’re about to get a big surprise. Thanks to GPS technology, people will know more about these mysterious sharks who’ve have been terrorizing ocean swimmers for years — including where they prowl, feed, and breed.

Chris Fischer, along with the help of research vessel OCEARCH, is proving that tracking great white sharks movements is more than possible, it’s being successfully done.

The team is doing this by capturing the great white sharks and inserting the GPS tracking chip into their dorsal fin. Once the chip is secured, the shark will be let back into the Atlantic, where its movements will then be tracked for up to five years.

“We don’t know where they breed, we don’t know where they feed, we don’t know where they give birth. So until we figure that out, we can’t even put policy in place to protect them,” Chris Fischer told CBS News.

This isn’t the first time Fischer has attempted tracking the infamous sea animals, but this one is proving more successful. In the past, his research team used GPS tracking technology, but the data wasn’t entirely reliable and had a time limit of about six months. This involved shooting the great whites with a harpoon, which had a GPS tracker mounted on the tip of the harpoon. Once it hit the shark, the GPS tracking chip would dislodge and attach to the sharks. The first method of tracking sharks was featured on “Shark Wranglers” which aired on the History Channel. Unfortunately, using this method, after about six months, the tracker would fall off. The newest method of catching and tagging great whites is proving to be much more reliable.

This research effort isn’t without its naysayers, however. Animal activist groups are concerned by this new tracking method, arguing that the method causes undue trauma and stress to the animal. They find that catching the shark and bringing them aboard the research vessel is unnecessary. There was even one great white accidentally killed when it was captured by Fischer’s team off the coast of South Africa. Activist groups sent around a petition with 750 signatures asking Fischer’s research team’s permit to be pulled; however they were allowed to continue with their research.

But Fischer has a response to these concerns: “Any time you capture a fish by any methodology, you’re going to expose it to some level of stress. But we try to minimize that. After all, saving a species isn’t supposed to be easy,” he said. The overall goal of the effort is to learn more about the migratory and breeding patterns of the great whites, and supply this data to policy makers, who can use it to protect these animals.

The first great white shark, weighing 2,292 pounds, was caught and tagged on September 12th off the coast of Cape Cod. Once the sharks are caught, the team has a very short amount of time where they can safely keep it out of water and get it tagged safely before setting it free in the ocean.

Fischer and his research team are streaming the whereabouts of the tagged and tracked great whites at

Take a look at this fascinating footage captured by CBS News:

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