ⓘ Beneath the Waves (organization)


ⓘ Beneath the Waves (organization)

Beneath the Waves is a non-governmental, nonprofit organization set up to advance the conservation of sharks, their habitats, and broader ocean health. Through its partnerships with other NGOs, universities, the private sector and the general public, the organization has researched sharks and their ecosystems.


1. Objectives

As apex predators, sharks play an essential role in the functioning of the marine ecosystem by removing sick or weak animals and leaving food scraps, which consumed by scavengers. The organization’s CEO, Dr. Austin Gallagher, believes that scientific data can provide a clearer picture of shark conservation needs, which can inform and improve the creation of marine protected areas. However, much of the science behind shark ecology and behavior are either still developing, poorly understood, or debated.

Humans harvest and kill between 63 million to 273M sharks per year, mainly for their fins which are a delicacy and retain high socioeconomic values in the shark fin trade.


2. Research

Since 2014, the NGO’s team of multidisciplinary scientists, have fitted over 40 sharks with satellite transmitters. The crew operates in both Bahamian and U.S. waters, and their research covers Tiger Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Nurse Sharks, and Caribbean Reef Sharks.

The NGO collects data showing how sharks change their migration patterns in response to variations in temperature. It does this by catching sharks and tagging the creatures with acoustic transmitters which are fitted externally on the dorsal fin or implanted directly into the shark’s body cavity and sutured closed. The team also collects samples of muscle, fin and blood for isotope ratio mass spectrometer analysis. The scientists analyze the data using Statistical modeling to discern which ecosystem the shark’s prey originated from which in turn reveals which ecosystems are most important in supporting the shark biomass.

In 2017 Beneath the Waves partnered with the ocean conservation non-profit Oceana, the organization that developed the Global Fishing Watch online platform. Researchers were able to identify parts of the ocean where human and marine life were overlapping. The crew collected the data by tagging ten sharks with SPOT-6 transmitters and recording for one to two months. Oceana then imported into the information into their database; the results showed that sharks were frequently crossing paths with active fishing boats in the Nantucket Shoals. Ocean conservationists hope that the results of the findings could be used by fishery managers to impose restrictions in areas where sensitive species are known to gather.

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