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Researchers get youth involved as they tag blue sharks off Halifax
Researchers say there seem to be more blue sharks in Maritime waters -- but what they don't know is why.
A group of researchers is now tagging sharks off Halifax as they try to answer that question, and they're getting youth involved in the mission.
When high-school student Rian Murphy finished school for the summer, she never imagined her vacation would include hauling sharks onto a boat and tagging them for research.
"It was really cool," Murphy said. "I didn't realize there were that many sharks and so close to us."
Murphy and four other students were part of a group of young women chosen to participate in a project aimed at getting more youth involved in ocean sciences.
"We, like, cast the line and then we waited," said Murphy. "The first one showed up pretty quickly and it was pretty steady after that. So, they put the belt on me, because I was the first person to go, and they were like, 'OK, you just reel it in.'"
Murphy said the sharks were "surprisingly strong" despite not being very big.
"It's a real arm workout," she said.
Nick Voutour, a representative from Ocean Bridge, partnered with local researchers to get the young budding scientists out on the water.
"The impacts that humans are having on our oceans is starting to be felt all over the world," Voutour said. "Fostering that next generation of ocean stewardship is really important."
In just a few hours, the team caught, tagged, and released seven young blue sharks.
Researchers say sharks have been in the Maritime region for a long time. But what we don't know is why they're here, what they're doing in these waters, and what role they play in the overall marine ecosystem.
"The big change is this thermal alteration of the ocean," said Fred Whoriskey, the executive director of the Ocean Tracking Network. "It's getting warmer. We're beginning to see crazy things like tropical fish in much larger numbers than we've ever seen in the Halifax region."
He began tagging blue sharks seven years ago
"It's an unusual group of blue sharks that we have here," Whoriskey said. "It seems to be immature females. So we are trying to figure out what is it about this particular area that is a magnet for this group. Now that we've discovered that these animals come back here year after year, for a number of years, can we determine a trigger to show how climate change is changing the distribution of sharks in these areas over a number of years?"
He says getting young people involved is key.
"They're going to own this world long after I'm gone, so by getting them versed in the issues, getting them familiar with the actual operations as to how this happens, they're going to become some of our best ambassadors and supporters as they go forward," Whoriskey said.
He hopes that by exposing more young people to marine ecosystems, they will continue to be a voice for healthy oceans for years to come.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Amy Stoodley.