Adopt a shark program helps fund Miami researcher's work

MIAMI — Here in Florida, you can adopt a highway, a park, a manatee, a tree — donating money and time to make sure the object or creature of your interest receives care and upkeep.

And now, you can also adopt a shark.

For $2,000, you can purchase a satellite tag to be attached to a bull, hammerhead or tiger shark, tracking its movements for up to a year while you follow it in real time on the Internet. And you also get to name your shark.

“Working with sharks is a great opportunity to advance and promote ocean conservation,” said Neil Hammerschlag, professor of marine affairs and policy and director of the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation program at University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School.

“Sharks are exciting. They are a rich addition to the resources on our planet. They bring attention to ocean-related issues.”

The 1-year-old program has resulted in the adoption of 20 sharks in Florida Bay, the Atlantic Ocean off the Keys, the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Myers and the Bahamas, Hammerschlag said.

Among supporters is financial services giant Wells Fargo, which has contributed $40,000 toward the shark research program.

And though anyone can check the sharks’ status at by clicking on “track our sharks.” Hammerschlag brought a handful of company executives for a closer look at what they are getting for their money, on a recent shark-tagging expedition to Florida Bay.

Sharks are a bellwether of marine health, Hammerschlag told them.

“As apex predators, sharks kind of integrate the rest of the ecosystem,” he said. “If the sharks aren’t doing well, it probably means the rest of the system isn’t doing well either. If you find low shark populations, it probably means the food chain isn’t in good shape.”

As many as 100 million sharks are killed worldwide each year for their fins, Hammerschlag explained, which are made into shark fin soup – an expensive delicacy in the Far East. Even though the practice of “finning” sharks is illegal in the United States, local shark populations still are not in good shape due to pollution and overfishing.

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