The migration of a hammerhead shark is recorded from the Galapagos Islands to Cocos Island in Costa Rica in near real time

For the first time, the migration of a hammerhead shark is recorded from the Galapagos Islands to Cocos Island in Costa Rica in near real time

Bulletin No. 140
April 14, 2021

  • Although previous studies have documented inter-island movements of hammerhead sharks using acoustic markings, these studies do not reveal the precise routes that sharks follow to get from one place to another.
  • This marine species is under management of the CITES Appendix 2 and listed in a critical category on the IUCN red list. In addition, the CMS is in a state of threat.

Galapagos – For the first time, scientists and technicians managed to document the migration – in next-to real time – of pregnant female hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini), from the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, to Cocos Island in Costa Rica, approximately 700 kilometers away, during a journey that lasted 14 days.

This marine species is 2.5 meters long and this individual was tagged with a satellite transmitter in February of this year during a two-week scientific expedition near Darwin Island in the north of the archipelago, a seasonal aggregation location of the shark. This device allowed the researchers to track the route and the exact season in which this migratory process occurs. At the time of the tagging, the scientists named the hammerhead shark Cassiopeia.

According to the information transmitted, Cassiopeia began her journey to the northeast until she reached her destination near Cocos Island two weeks later, travelling at an approximate speed of 50 kilometers per day. The researchers are tracking the route that the female will follow to the continental coasts to give birth to her young within the mangrove bays.

Dr. Pelayo Salinas de León, Principal Investigator at the Charles Darwin Foundation, commented that “better understanding the annual reproductive migrations of female hammerhead sharks is vital in order to inform a regional conservation approach which is urgently needed to reverse the current population decline in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.”

“These pregnant females are the most important group which we must protect. They try to avoid the fishing activity, often illegal and unregulated, between the Galapagos and their places of birth on the mainland, ”says Professor Mahmood Shivji, director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and the Save Our Sea Foundation’s Shark Research Center at Nova Southeastern University.

Marcelo Mata, Minister of the Environment and Water, assures that “From this portfolio of the State, we will always promote this type of action which encourages scientific research for the benefit of our biodiversity throughout the entire Ecuadorian territory.”

For Danny Rueda, Director of the Galapagos National Park, “the contributions of this research are essential to promote the adoption of regional policies that protect these routes, which function as marine corridors for species considered critically endangered, such as hammerhead sharks.”

This research is part of the shark ecology project of the Charles Darwin Foundation, the Galapagos National Park Directorate of the Ministry of Environment and Water, the Shark Research Center of the Save Our Seas Foundation and the Guy Harvey Research Institute of the Nova Southeastern University (USA).

Communication Directorate
Ministry of the Environment and Water

Read the original coverage from the Ministry of the Environment and Water at

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021


2 thoughts on “The migration of a hammerhead shark is recorded from the Galapagos Islands to Cocos Island in Costa Rica in near real time

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