Projects : Hawaiʻi Tiger Shark Tracking
DISCLAIMER: This is not a warning system and does not provide real-time monitoring.
Tagged Tiger Sharks to Collect Behavioral and Oceanographic Data
2016 – present
This map shows the movements of Hawaiʻi tiger sharks fitted with the latest generation of satellite tags. These tags are attached to the shark’s dorsal fin and send a signal every time the fin breaks the surface. Pick a shark from the slider to watch tracks from recently tagged sharks. Placing your cursor over a location spot gives you the date and time of the event. The square pink symbol indicates the original tagging location and the bright yellow dot shows the last reported detection. Note that the accuracy of these “fixes” varies from within several yards to up to a mile from the shark’s actual location.
The goal of this project is two-fold. First, the Shark Research Group from the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology expects to gain valuable insights about shark behavior and habitat selection. Second, the project is testing two new technologies; a new type of satellite tag and a new way of detecting transmissions from those tags.
In addition to the sharks’ locations, this new generation of tags records important oceanographic data, such as ocean temperature and oxygen profiles, and sea surface temperature. The tags are also capable of acquiring GPS–quality positional “fixes” associated with these profiles. Data will be made available in near-real time to databases that inform models to predict ocean circulation patterns (e.g., to improve weather forecasting). This is the first example of using “sharks as oceanographers.”
In the past, data from tagged sharks were solely transmitted through the orbiting satellites system whenever the animal surfaced. However, since Argos satellite availability averages only 6-12 minutes per hour in Hawaiʻi, land-based receivers were installed at high elevations around Maui and Oʻahu to augment the satellite array and increase data throughput from fin-mounted tags. Land-based receivers can significantly increase data recovery and are able to detect signals in a range of 80-90 km. Analysis of performance so far indicates that when a shark surfaces within range of a land-based receiver, 100% of transmitted messages are successfully received.
Temperature profiles will be made available through the Animal Telemetry Network Data Assembly Center.
Data are collected by Principal Investigators Kim Holland, Ph.D. and Carl Meyer, Ph.D. along with other members of the Shark Research Team of the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UH). PacIOOS provides ongoing support for the Shark Research Team and the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) is currently supporting efforts as part of the Ocean Technology Transition (OTT) Project.
Distribution Maps at a Glance
Below are the latest maps for each shark track. Click on a thumbnail for a larger image.
February 2021 – August 2021:
September 2016 – January 2019:
Studying Movement Patterns of Tiger Sharks off Maui
December 2013 – September 2015
Maui witnessed a higher number of unprovoked shark bites in 2012 and 2013. In order to better understand tiger shark movement patterns, the Shark Research Group from the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology equipped 41 tiger sharks with satellite and/or acoustic tags off Maui and Oʻahu and tracked their movements for up to two years.
The study revealed that tiger sharks prefer to spend time on insular shelf habitat, which is a gently-sloping area between the shoreline and the shelf break at a depth of around 600 ft. This type of shelf habitat is home to a wide variety of shark prey, and Maui Nui has more of this shelf habitat than all of the other main Hawaiian Islands combined. The habitat around Maui can support fairly resident tiger sharks, and it also attracts tiger sharks from other parts of Hawaiʻi.
Areas that are most frequently visited by tiger sharks around Maui include waters adjacent to popular ocean recreation sites. However, despite the routine presence of large tiger sharks close to popular beaches, the risk of being bitten remains very low, suggesting tiger sharks normally avoid interactions with people. The research findings will help officials from the State of Hawaiʻi to raise public awareness of the natural presence of large sharks in Hawaiʻi coastal waters.
All tiger shark tracks from this study are available in the map viewer above. Sharks that were tagged near Maui and Oʻahu between 2013 and 2015 can be found in the dropdown menu within the viewer under the “historic” category.
Download the peer-reviewed publication in Nature Scientific Reports: Habitat geography around Hawaii’s oceanic islands influences tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) spatial behaviour and shark bite risk at ocean recreation sites.
Download the final report: Spatial dynamics of tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) around Maui and Oʻahu.
With funding from the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), data were collected by Principal Investigators Carl Meyer, Ph.D. and Kim Holland, Ph.D. along with other members of the Shark Research Team of the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UH). PacIOOS makes tiger shark tracks available online and provides funding to support tagging efforts.
Distribution Maps at a Glance
Below are the final distribution maps for each historic shark track. Click on a thumbnail for a larger image.
- HIMB Tiger Shark Research
- State of Hawaiʻi shark website
- Historical tiger shark tracks and other tagged marine species in PacIOOS Voyager