GCRL Shark Research Program

GCRL conducts several ongoing research activities related to sharks in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi Sound.

Great Hammerhead shark, one of the the shark species studied by the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory via tagging and telemetry programs
Great Hammerhead Shark

SEAMAP Shark Longline Survey

A longline is used to catch sharks to be tagged and released in the SEAMAP shark longline survey.

 

We conduct monthly (March to October) sampling in the Mississippi Sound and south of the barrier islands to assess shark populations in our area.  This project is funded by SEAMAP, the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program.  A large component of our surveying is to tag and release sharks, so if they are caught in the future we can get movement and growth information from the animal. 

If you catch a shark with a tag in it please call us with the following information: tag number, shark species, sex, and total length. 

 

Jill Hendon and Jennifer McKinney land a blacktip shark on a longline

 



MDMR Sport Fish Shark Gillnet and Handline Survey

Handline used to collect specimens for DMR Sport Fish Shark Gillnet and Handline Survey

 

From March to October, we conduct monthly gillnet and handline sampling in the Mississippi Sound to assess shark populations.  We have more than ten years of data on coastal sharks from this project.  This project is funded by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.  A large component of our sampling is to tag and release sharks so if they are caught in the future we can get movement and growth information for the animal.  If you catch a shark with a tag, please call us with the following information: tag number, shark species, sex, and total length. 

 

 

Jeremy Higgs, graduate student, uses a handline to land a small sharpnose shark

 

 

 

Fish Habitat Assessments

Acoustic Telemetry

To assess habitat preferences and seasonal occurrence at artificial reefs in the Mississippi Sound, we use a system of acoustic tags and receivers in local waters. We implant acoustic tags in spotted sea trout, gag grouper, grey snapper, lane snapper, sharpnose shark, blacktip shark, finetooth shark, bull shark, and bonnethead shark. We deploy anchored acoustic receivers in the Mississippi Sound; you may have seen the spherical orange floats that support the receivers.  When an implanted fish comes near one of these receivers, the tag's unique code is recorded.  We routinely visit the receivers to download the collected data. With a network of receivers, we can see which fish are in the area and track their movements. 

This project is funded by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources

Acoustic telemetry receiver used for tracking charks, grouper, snapper, and spotted seatrout (speckled trout) by GCRL

Jill Hendon and Jennifer McKinney perform surgery on a sharpnose shark to install an acoustic tag

Acoustic receiver rig. You'll see these around the barrier islands and in the Sound and bays.

Satellite Tagging

We attach satellite tags to large pelagic sharks as a means of assessing their habitat use and movement.  Our target species are whale sharks, silky sharks, dusky sharks, tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, mako sharks, and thresher sharks. The satellite tags can transmit location information to satellites anytime the shark is at the surface.  The data is then emailed to us.  The tags can also record information such as depth and water temperature.  The tag is designed to release from the animal at a programmed time, usually 4, 6, 8, or 12 months, and float to the surface. If we can recover the tag we can obtain all the detailed information it collected while attached to the shark, providing detailed information on the sharks behavior every few seconds.

Whale Shark Research

Whale shark

We monitor whale shark abundance and distribution in the northern Gulf of Mexico through satellite tagging, sightings reports, scientific encounters, photo identification, and aerial surveys. If you see a whale shark in the Gulf, please contribute to this important research by completing the Whale Shark Sighting Survey on the web.

More about whale sharks


COA 422/522 Shark Biology

Every summer we teach an elasmobranch biology course through the University of Southern Mississippi’s Summer Field Program.  This is an intense four-week field course for undergraduate and graduate students.

Shark Research Contacts

For additional information on GCRL's Shark Research Program, contact Jill Hendon.