Researchers Wrangle Sharks in the Bahamas to Improve Marine Preserves

credit: One World One Ocean

Last year, Kristofor Lofgren—a restauranteur who owns a sustainable sushi restaurant—proposed an interesting idea. At the 2011 Summit at Sea in the Bahamas, he presented the idea of using revenue from his restaurant to help create marine protected areas where fish could find sanctuary and reproduce. The conservationists in attendance liked the idea but identified a few problems that had to addressed before it could implemented.

credit: One World One Ocean

The Caribbean region has been identified by the IUCN as one of the world's "biodiversity hotspots"—meaning that it holds a high concentration of plants, animals, and fungi spread across a large number of ecosystems. Part of this, of course, are the region's marine resources. The Caribbean is home to eight percent of the world's coral reefs.

credit: One World One Ocean

These reef ecosystems, however, are under increasing threat. In addition to climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, and pollution, invasive species like the lion fish have begun ravaging native populations. READ MORE: The World's Most Lovable Invasive Species

credit: One World One Ocean

Clearly, then, the Caribbean is in need of protection. But conservationists cannot simply rope off large swaths of ocean and expect damaged ecosystems to recover on their own. Indeed, planning an effective marine preserve requires careful consideration of the many—and sometimes divergent—needs of plant, animal, and human communities. This is why—motivated by Lofgren's proposal—a team of researchers traveled to the Caribbean to gain a better understanding of one large group of apex predators: sharks. READ MORE: 6 Steps to Saving the World's Coral Reefs

credit: One World One Ocean

Expedition Tiger Shark pooled resources from the Nature Conservancy and One World One Ocean to track and tag sharks in a proposed marine protected area.

credit: One World One Ocean

Of course, tagging a shark is not an easy job. To accomplish the task a research must delicately clamp the transmitter to one of the shark's fins. READ MORE: The Tricky Tie Between Economics and Marine Conservation

credit: One World One Ocean

The tags will give researchers a better understanding of shark behavior: Specifically, where the travel and when. READ MORE: Epic Shark Feeding Frenzy Caught on Film

credit: One World One Ocean

The area of research is currently designated as a marine preserve—but, researchers pointed out, a lack of infrastructure and enforcement has meant that it was protected in name only. READ MORE: 7 Key Shark Habitats That Need Conservation Now

credit: One World One Ocean

When the research is complete, protections for all species in the region will be bolstered by nearly $1 million in fundraising.

credit: One World One Ocean

The Bahamas, of course, are but one small part of a large area of biodiversity. Still, research and conservation in one area can have a ripple effect—sending beneficial waves out across the entire Caribbean.