Researcher seeks shark tag missing on Maui

Researcher: Returning shark tag ‘right thing’

By Harry Eager – Staff Writer, The Maui News,
18. October 2011

A Florida shark researcher is looking on Maui for the satellite tracking tag he attached to a female tiger shark in Maalaea Bay.

That’s right. On Maui. Somewhere in Haiku.

Whether the shark, named MAZ, came with it is unknown, but the tag contains valuable research data, and professor Neil Hammerschlag would like to get it back.

Local spearfishing advocate Darrell Tanaka heard about the search through the coconut wireless and has been looking around Haiku and asking for leads.

The difficulty, he says, is that the GPS signal that is still being picked up is accurate “only to within 300 meters.”

That narrowed down the area to someplace above Giggle Hill, he says, perhaps near Haupoa Place. But then later it seemed to be signaling from the vicinity of Kokomo Road.

Is somebody showing it around?

“That’s a good question,” said Tanaka on Monday.

The tag was put on MAZ early in September, and she loitered between Maalaea and Molokini until the day before the tag started transmitting from land.

Hammerschlag says he doesn’t know whether the tag worked loose and floated ashore. That happened in Bermuda with a tag he put on a shark in the Bahamas.

Or maybe somebody caught the shark with the tag attached.

That has happened twice out of about 70 fish he has tagged.

Once a commercial shark fisherman in Cuba returned the tag to him. And once a commercial shark fisherman in Florida threatened to shoot Hammerschlag if he didn’t pay him cash for the tag.

Hammerschlag didn’t pay and he didn’t get that tag, either.

He’s hoping for more aloha and kokua on Maui.

A flier posted at Fukushima Store offers a “reward,” but Hammerschlag says it wouldn’t likely be monetary. More probably a hat and a T-shirt from the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

“The tag isn’t worth anything to anyone else,” he says. But returning it in the name of shark conservation “would be the right thing to do.”

Hammerschlag, director of the Dunlap center, says sharks are particularly vulnerable to fishing pressure, habitat loss and pollution due to their inherent life history characteristics of slow growth, late maturity, long gestation, a low reproduction rate and long life, which result in a slow rate of population increase.

Tracking helps policymakers know where to focus their marine protection efforts, such as identifying critical feeding, mating and pupping areas.

The program is mainly working in the Caribbean and focusing on hammerhead, bull and tiger sharks, because those are on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.

In September, the Dunlap researchers tagged two large tiger sharks and a sandbar shark around Maui, as part of an education and conservation initiative led by Oracle.

The sharks, except MAZ, can be tracked swimming around on GoogleEarth at The track for MAZ is at

Tanaka is pitching in because “I feel bad for him, because he is all the way off in Florida.”

On the other hand, “It would be inappropriate to knock on doors in Haiku,” so he’s hoping for a better lead.

Anyone who knows where the tag is can call Tanaka at 575-2557.

Hammerschlag can be reached at

Harry Eagar can be reached at

Source: The Maui News




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