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VT professor spends month on Mediterranean Sea searching for sharks

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 4:19 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Shark Week is happening right now on Discovery Channel. But for Francesco Ferretti, a Virginia Tech Asst. Professor of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Shark Week is 52 times a year.

Thanks to a grant from the Discovery Channel and the Explorer’s Club, he’s spent the last month with a team of researchers on the Mediterranean Sea.

“The Mediterranean white shark population is one of the most endangered and least known populations in the planet,” said Ferretti.

He and his team set out to locate and tag great white sharks in the Sicilian Channel to learn more about them.

The crew made its go at it during the blue fin tuna migration, hoping the sharks would follow. But no dice.

“Not seeing them is concerning,” said Ferretti. “We have gone in a place where it should be the last stronghold of these animals.”

They did, however, locate great white shark DNA in the water. But 141 hours of video did not capture any.

“No one has ever tagged a white shark in the Mediterranean Sea, and it is time now that we start monitoring this population because this is going to be one of the first populations to go extinct,” said Ferretti.

The number of Mediterranean great white sharks has declined 80% over the years, due in part to fishing impacts. They are now considered critically endangered, according to Ferretti.

“The sharks are there, but they are extremely difficult to find them. They are very sparse, it’s like looking for a needle in a hay[stack].”

But that doesn’t mean Ferretti is going to stop looking. The team is already working to plan next year’s charter.

“We have now more information and more intelligence to now detect them,” said Ferretti.

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