Shark Counting Program

As part of our scientific research program the Micronesian Shark Foundation has been collecting shark count data for the past 2 years. This data has been collected by tour operators in Palau and the program is now extending to other islands in Micronesia. The data we collect includes information on the numbers of sharks sighted and their behavior patterns, broken down by species, gender and size. It also identifies other factors such as water temperature, visibility and number of divers underwater.

Utilizing this daily data provides information that will be invaluable to our scientific research into the migratory patterns of Gray Reef Sharks in Palau, including helping us determine the optimal month to tag the sharks.  Through this data collection we can also identify irregularities and can relate them to weather and other natural phenomena.

A recent example is the mating season of the grey reef sharks which normally falls in February and March. This year however observations of female sharks with fresh mating scars showed that the sharks were mating in the month of August which is very unusual. When we analyzed our data, we noticed that the water temperatures were below the normal (that’s the normal pattern for Feb-March), and quite a few underwater seismic activities were occurring in our region. While the link between these factors and the shark mating season is not yet clear, it is through such data collection and analysis that we hope to come to a better understanding of these beautiful creatures.

Our goal is to have as much data collected all over Micronesia to assist with our scientific research.

How do you count sharks?

This shark count form was developed by Tova Harel Bornovski. Its purpose is to gather information on shark numbers, sites population patterns, seasonality of different sharks and gender.

Click here to see the shark counting form

Using the shark count table, volunteer divers and dive guides mark the different sharks they see underwater. This data is then compiled and processed by Dr. Mark Meekan. The graph below shows the patterns between August 2008 to August 2009.

Notice the patterns of shark population with spikes during different months for different sites. Blue Corner has less sharks from December through February and another spike in March and April. Whereas German Channel has more sharks in November and December with lower numbers in later months.

These figures are being further analyzed. More information will be available in 2011.