Texas State Aquarium Partners with Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to Conduct Shark Survey Aimed at Conservation Efforts
November 4, 2021
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX –The Texas State Aquarium (TSA) has partnered with the Marine Genomics Laboratory at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) in its ongoing research assessing Corpus Christi Bay as a nursery ground for sharks. From March through October 2021, the Aquarium assisted with this research by providing its rescue vessel along with skilled staff members to help the University’s team during fieldwork. Previous research has demonstrated that the Corpus Christi-Aransas Bay system provides a critical habitat for several species of sharks, including spinner sharks, bonnetheads, bull sharks, and scalloped hammerheads.
Estuaries are commonly inhabited by elasmobranchs (sharks, rays, etc.) where females give birth and juveniles remain for some time. Due to a lack of information about elasmobranchs in the Bay, Dr. Portnoy from TAMUCC approached the Texas State Aquarium in search of resources to help continue the study. The survey’s main objective is to identify all sharks and rays caught in the Corpus Christi Bay area and collect environmental data at the time of capture. Additionally, Dr. Portnoy and the TSA aim to help the community better understand the sharks that live in the Corpus Christi-Aransas Bay system, “The Aquarium not only has shark exhibits, but spreads conservation messages about sharks, so this partnership makes sense,” said Dr. Portnoy.
“Corpus Christi Bay is a critically important habitat for several shark species, especially mothers and young-of-the-year sharks. We must be able to educate people on how important and healthy the Bay is. That is why we agreed to donate our assets in support of this research,” said Texas State Aquarium Senior VP and COO, Jesse Gilbert.
TAMUCC scientists, researchers, and the Aquarium’s staff members engaged in a monthly longline and gillnet survey, sampling three core areas from March to October. Shark species including spinner sharks, bonnetheads, bull sharks, and many other elasmobranchs, were brought aboard the TSA research vessel. Scientists tagged the sharks, gathered their measurements, collected DNA samples, and then released them back into the Bay.
With the information gathered by this survey, the Aquarium hopes to implement new ways to educate the public about how vital and critical the Corpus Christi Bay area is for pregnant sharks and their offspring. “The Aquarium provides information and messaging about conservation that allows people to better understand these animals and their life histories,” said Dr. Portnoy.
The Texas State Aquarium would like to extend its appreciation to Steven Gordon and Andrew Swallow of the Freedom Boat Club Corpus Christi for kindly providing their vessel and staff to assist with the photo/video documentation of fieldwork.