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Most Commonly Asked Questions


Shark Research

What radar tracking equipment is used to track and research sharks?

Acoustic transmitter
An example of an acoustic transmitter © Tobey Curtis
Radar is actually not used to track the movements of sharks and other fish. The equipment that is used to track sharks is known as an acoustic telemetry system. Telemetry is a scientific method that is used the track the movements of wild animals so that more can be learned about their migrations and home ranges. For land animals, radio telemetry is used. For ocean fish, however, radio does not work, so acoustic signals are used to track them. Acoustic telemetry means that the equipment uses pulses of sound rather than radio waves. The acoustic telemetry system requires 2 main components, (1) a transmitter and (2) a receiver. The transmitters are about the size and shape of a mini-flashlight. The transmitter is attached to the shark by being tied to its dorsal fin, or tagged to its back. Transmitters can also be surgically implanted into the body of the shark. The shark is then released, and the attached transmitter gives off regular acoustic pulses (which can't be heard by the shark or other animals) so it can be followed. The boat carries the receiver which picks up the acoustic signal and tells where the shark is located in reference to the boat. It is then followed from several hours to several days, producing a track of the shark's movements through its natural habitats. It is very sophisticated equipment, but allows the study of the shark's behavior and swimming patterns without actually seeing the shark.