When it comes to shark conservation, satellite tags are a valuable tool in a scientist's arsenal. Attach them to the sharks' fins, and you can track the ocean predators in real time, gathering up crucial information about their movements and behaviours. As for the tagging task, scientists can sometimes use a helping hand – as was the case with this huge mako shark tagged in the Gulf of Mexico.

The female shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) was caught by recreational anglers Dwade Hickey and Eric Ozolins this week. According to the pair, it’s incredibly rare to catch a mako in the surf, and this one was the largest that's been spotted in the area. The big beauty measured in at 10.5 feet (3.2m) in length and weighed an estimated 620 pounds (280kg)!

The catch was made in conjunction with the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation (CSSC), an organisation that aims to work with sportfishermen to generate scientific data from their legal catches, providing information that can be used to help manage the local ecosystem. 

"Anglers and the general fishing public represent a tremendous, but largely untapped, knowledge base that has the potential to make significant contributions toward fisheries management and conservation," the team explains. 

The duo fitted the mako, now dubbed "Lazarus", with a satellite tag and released her back into the water without trouble. Her movements can now followed with the awesome shark tracker run by nonprofit shark research group OCEARCH.

In case you're wondering, attaching a tag doesn't hurt the shark, since the dorsal fin where it's fitted contains no nerve supply (you can read up on more shark-tagging myths here). 

"Whether it is collecting key recreational catch information, data collection tools for fishermen, providing tagging kits to anglers, or simply following some of our popular apex predators on the Shark Tracker, we are always enthusiastic about engaging citizen scientists," adds the centre.

Mako sharks like Lazarus are highly migratory, and data from her tracker tag will now give us clues about how these animals use nearby waters – which is key to figuring out how to better protect the species. 


Top header image: J Thomas McMurray/Flickr