For the very first time, scientists filmed sharks traveling along a 500-mile-long shark highway in the Pacific Ocean that stretches between the Galapagos Islands and Cocos Island. The reason for filming? While Cocos and the Galapagos have protected areas for fish, the shark highway is not included, and scientists want to transform it into a protected wildlife corridor.
Costa Rica group Fundación PACÍFICO, a collaboration of four environmental funds, organized an expedition to videotape the shark highway. President Zdenka Piskulich told NPR it’s difficult to get people interested in a corridor out in the ocean, but “finally we have visual evidence that there is a huge abundance in this area that needs to be protected, that there really is a highway.”
The scientists utilized GoPro-style cameras, fish bait and metal frames to create what are called baited remote underwater video systems, or BRUVS. They dragged these behind a research boat for nearly two weeks. Biologist Mario Espinoza said, “We actually documented over 16 species of sharks and fish, also sea turtles and dolphins…It’s really surprising to see that many animals.” Sharks — including hammerhead, thresher and silky sharks — were the predominant marine animal.
The shark highway follows an underwater mountain range, or seamounts, according to Fundación PACÍFICO. Espinoza said this was “the first time we actually documented animals using these seamounts. We don’t know exactly whether they are feeding or they’re like stopping by or using these seamounts as navigation routes.”
Lee Crockett of the Shark Conservation Fund said sharks straying outside of protected areas are at risk of being caught on the long lines of high seas tuna fishing. Some species of hammerhead sharks are endangered; others are declining. He described protecting this shark highway as “the next step in conservation.”
Image via Depositphotos