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Longboat Key Monday, Aug. 30, 2010 7 years ago

Mote scientists search for missing satellite tag

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Mote Marine Laboratory researchers are asking the public for help in finding a missing satellite tag that was used to track a whale shark.

The tag was attached to the female whale shark nicknamed “Sara” May 28 to transmit data about her movements to Mote scientist Dr. Robert Hueter. The information transmitted daily changed July 2, when it began reporting relatively constant temperature readings instead of the variations that would indicate dives typical of a whale shark. According to Hueter, after several days of similar readings, researchers concluded the tag had detached and was floating free.

The tag could have detached for a number of reasons. Scientists hope to recover the tag, which costs $1,900, to understand why it detached and possibly use it again.

The tag is black, torpedo-shaped and about 6 inches long. It has a black antenna and is likely to have a wire tether attached.

To save transmission costs, which can run hundreds of dollars, scientists have turned off the satellite.

“The readings are typically 12 hours behind the tag’s actual location, and (because) we really weren’t learning any further information about our research topic — whale shark movements — or couldn’t use the location information to retrieve the tag itself, we made the decision to turn it off,” Hueter said in a prepared statement. “Now, we’re hoping that the public will spot it either floating in the Gulf or washed up on the beach and get the tag back to us.”

Mote will pay the shipping cost for the return of the tag and will provide the person who returns it with a Mote Center for Shark Research shark tagger’s cap. Call 388-1827 or 800-691-MOTE if you spot the tag.

For more information, visit

Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].

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