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Week Of Sharks: Tracking Mako Sharks Off New England

By Barry Burbank, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – When most people think of sharks, the Great White as depicted in the hit movie “Jaws” comes to mind.   There are about 500 other species of sharks, however.

Mako sharks can be considered the Great White’s little brother, according to University of Rhode Island Marine Biologist Bradley Wetherbee.  “They are closely related to them.  They have similar characteristics.”

Makos are smaller and are often caught for sport.

Wetherbee said they have another difference. “They are good to eat.”

Makos are fished around the world, including here in the waters off of New England.

Anthony Caturano is the owner and chef at Prezza in the North End.  He thinks Mako is delicious.

“I’d say it’s probably more similar to swordfish. It’s not flaky like cod.  It’s not stringy like striped bass.  It’s a little more meaty,” said Caturano.

Mako shark. (WBZ-TV)

Mako shark. (WBZ-TV)

The Great White is protected by federal law and can’t be caught.  That is not the case with other species.

Researchers say that’s backwards because the Great White is doing pretty well in terms of numbers, but others are threatened.

Wetherbee has been tracking Mako sharks up and down the coast for 7 years, by attaching satellite transmitters to their fins.

Mako shark. (WBZ-TV)

Mako shark. (WBZ-TV)

His goal is to get a better idea of the Mako population.

“In order to manage a population, you need to know what the boundaries of that population are, you need to know where these animals are for one, you need to know what countries they’re in, whose waters they are in,” explained Wetherbee.

The biggest problem facing all sharks today is finning.

A Google search quickly reveals the barbarous way up to a hundred million sharks have their fins cut off each year.  It’s to make a special kind of soup, a delicacy in Asia.

“It is banned in US waters and some other places, but on the high seas and international waters and most countries around the world, it’s wide open,” said Wetherbee.

For Makos, Wetherbee is working with his students to build a data base on their travel, a vital step in protecting them.

“All of our research is geared towards conservation.  We just want to unravel some of the mysteries of these sharks.  You know, they are fascinating, and mysterious,” he told WBZ.

One thing Makos have going for them is they’re hard to catch.  They’re very aggressive and often bite right thru the fishing lines.

MORE LOCAL NEWS FROM CBS BOSTON

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