News from IUCN members: Save Our Seas Foundation study basking sharks and call to protect cetaceans

08 September 2009 | News story

Marine experts, assembled by the Save Our Seas Foundation in July, called for action to sustain the Indian Ocean whaling ban and protect dolphins from growing slaughter. Despite the ban on whaling in a large area of the Indian Ocean, populations of both whales and dolphins appear to be on the decline, mainly because of accidental entrapment in fishing gear and in some cases, intentional hunting.

Learning about the ecology and habits of marine species is imperative for their survival, as only through knowledge can effective conservation and management plans be recognized. Recent studies using advanced research techniques such as DNA sequencing and the attachment of satellite-linked tags to individual whales reveal how distinct populations migrate between key feeding and breeding areas. Experts agree to tackle the mystery of missing migrations using photo-identification and satellite tags.

The basking shark has also been the subject of studies using electronic tags.  A basking shark tagged in the Isle of Man (UK) crossed the Atlantic Ocean to reach Newfoundland, has been followed by the revelation that other basking sharks tagged off the coast of the North-eastern USA have travelled to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. One or two have even been tracked crossing the equator all the way to the northern and central coasts of Brazil.

“These latest results are really quite amazing,” said Dr. Gore, who led the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) supported team that tagged the Isle of Man shark. “This raises the possibility that a shark we see in Britain could cross to North American one year, and turn up in Brazil the next!”

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