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Fish and Game is seeking help tracking and studying salmon sharks

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 5:53 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For boaters, anglers, and anyone else on the Bering Sea, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is looking for help tracking and studying salmon sharks. Anyone who sees one is asked to call marine research biologist, Sabrina Garcia.

More specifically, Garcia is a salmon biologist and she’s now turning her attention on their predators.

The sharks can get up to seven feet long and are in the same category as great whites and makos. They have a pointed snout, gray on top with a white belly and gray speckles on their underside.

“Basically you’re looking for a shark that’s like a mini version of a great white,” Garcia explained.

These fish are documented and research exists on them. However, Garcia said they remain largely mysterious.

She said the majority of data the department has on them is from females in the Prince William Sound during the summer months while they feed on salmon — hence the name.

However, there is research that shows that salmon isn’t all they eat. Garcia said they are trying to learn more about the males and their diet. The whole point is both to learn more about the ecosystem of the Bering Sea, as well as the general pursuit of knowledge.

“When we think about the Bering Sea ecosystem, or the North Pacific, or the Gulf of Alaska — if you’re wanting to understand something like salmon population dynamics, how can you understand that without knowing about the temperature of the water, the type of prey that they’re eating, or the predators that are eating them? So this is just one piece of the puzzle that we’re trying to learn about,” she said.

They have some data on the male salmon shark based on two tagged sharks. Some of the most interesting findings Garcia reported were how far away they go. She said one of the tracked salmon sharks went from the Bering Sea all the way to Baja California, Mexico, and then came back.

Garcia said the males can be identified by a set of two dangling appendages behind the back fins on their underside.

She said they have four more sets of sophisticated tags to study the males further. They come in sets of two.

One of them looks like a bobber and is connected to their backs. This one tracks the shark’s depth and the temperature of the water.

The other one is more rectangular and is attached to the dorsal fin. That one sends a signal to a satellite to track the location of the shark every time it surfaces. Garcia said salmon sharks travel to the surface often.

If one sees a salmon shark out in the Bering Sea, Garcia wants to hear about it. People who see them can call at (907) 267-2180 or email her at Sabrina.Garcia@alaska.gov.

In the event of catching a salmon shark, Garcia said do not attempt to send the animal to her. Instead, tell her where it was caught, try and get the length, and take a picture of them. Also, be careful getting them off the hook as they are a powerful shark.

“I just need a general area, you don’t have to give me your favorite fishing hole or anything like that,” she said.

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