Environment

Rare longfin mako sharks journey through Keys waters, study confirms

A longfin mako shark tagged off Cuba in early 2015 traveled along the Florida Keys as it roamed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Movements of the rare mako are being studied by Mote Marine Laboratory in conjunction with Cuban marine biologists.
A longfin mako shark tagged off Cuba in early 2015 traveled along the Florida Keys as it roamed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Movements of the rare mako are being studied by Mote Marine Laboratory in conjunction with Cuban marine biologists.

A rare species of mako shark swims through Florida Keys waters as it roams from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, says a new scientific paper jointly published by researchers with Mote Marine Laboratory and Cuba’s University of Havana.

Two longfin makos were tagged with satellite-tracking devices in an effort to learn more about the deepwater sharks, protected from harvest as a species of special conservation concern.

The tracking efforts, conducted in 2012 and 2015, lasted only a few months but both revealed the longfin makos move between the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic, going as far north as Chesapeake Bay and New Jersey.

“The sharks’ movements shed light on the life of a rare species while demonstrating an important point: The U.S., Cuba, Mexico and the Bahamas are fundamentally connected by the sea,” a Mote Marine statement says of the peer-reviewed study published last Wednesday.

The shark tagged in February 2015 off Cuba traveled about 5,500 miles in five months, averaging about 36.6 miles a day, the study says.

The longfin mako tagged in the northeast Gulf of Mexico in April 2012 covered about 4,231 miles in three months, averaging about 46 miles per day before the tag detached.

Both sharks found their way to a spot off Virginia in July, an indication of a mating site or critical feeding ground, said Mote Marine’s Dr. Robert Hueter, the study’s lead scientist.

“One of the important things we were looking for is the overlap in range between these two satellite-tagged sharks to identify critical areas of habitat for this species,” Hueter said in a Mote statement.

The study reportedly is the first of its kind on the longfin mako, a rare species not seen as frequently as the shortfin mako that inhabits shallower water.

“This paper contains irrefutable evidence of how our two countries are connected, and how collaboration is the way to go to protect our common resources,” Dr. Jorge Angulo Valdes of the University of Havana and University of Florida said.\

Mote is based in Sarasota and has a satellite lab on Summerland Key.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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