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Tracking basking sharks with satellites in the Channel Islands

10 May 2019

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Spring is notoriously windy along the coast of California. Strong northwest winds can cause hazardous sea states to crop up out of nowhere, especially in the Santa Barbara Channel. But as dawn broke on a crisp April morning, the first rays of light revealed a glassy, calm channel. Not so much as a ripple disturbed the surface. These were perfect conditions for spotting one of the most elusive visitors to the channel's waters: basking sharks.

Most mariners aren't actively looking for giant, fearsome-looking marine creatures. But researchers from NOAA's Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary set out with – and accomplished – one goal: to put satellite tags on the gentle giants once seen in great numbers roaming the rich waters of the Santa Barbara Channel.

Source: NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Image credit: Pike Spector/NOAA - The NOAA team prepares to tag a basking shark near Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.