Tagged shark’s astonishing 4000km journey

A TIGER shark has been recorded for the first time swimming nearly 4000km between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Scientists at Biopixel Oceans Foundation, based at James Cook University's Cairns campus, have been tracking the movements of a 2.5m long tiger shark named Zuza who was fitted with a satellite tracker about 15 months ago.

While the 180kg ocean predator spent most of his time swimming off the Cairns and Far North coastline, the researchers were surprised that in the past six months, he was recorded making a sudden journey north to Port Moresby.

Biopixel researcher Richard Fitzpatrick said while his team had previously tagged sharks travelling north towards PNG, none had ever gone quite that far north.

"We are very excited to follow Zuza's movements," he said.

"Satellite tagging is difficult, because we only get a signal when the shark's dorsal fin is out of the water.

"Also, in this part of the world, satellites are only overhead for about 30 per cent of the time."

He said they were not yet sure why Zuza had decided to make the long trip.

"We don't yet have enough data to draw conclusions," he said. "That's why continuing this research is important.

"We need to understand sharks' behaviour, so we can better manage interactions in their environment."

To date, the foundation, funded by the Slattery Family Trust, has tagged 16 tiger sharks on the Great Barrier Reef.

The satellite tags, which can cost up to $7000 each, are fitted to the sharks' dorsal fins.

Researchers also need to pay for satellite time and processing, based on the number of times the tag is detected at the sea surface.

Tiger sharks, which are common on the Reef, are considered to be among the strongest swimmers of all sharks, despite their sluggish appearance.

Track the movements of the tagged sharks online, at biopixelresearch.org/research/sharks/

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