My personal belief is that Ocearch is not a true scientific research institute, but rather, a bunch of fishermen who think it's cool to catch and tag sharks, and they found a loophole that allows them to do this.
But, I am also a scientist and require proof. So I started looking around for hard evidence, one way or the other. The information I got on Ocearch was from their own website, http://www.ocearch.org/.
Chris Fischer is the "expedition leader and founding chairman" of Ocearch. While it appears he has gone to college, I cannot find any information about what he studied. Presumably if he had studied something like biology that would relate to legitimate research it would have been mentioned. He has, however, been an avid fisherman since childhood. Fischer's Facebook page, https://www.facebook...HEROCEARCH/info, says "By breaking down institutional barriers, the resource-focused projects of his non-profit, OCEARCH, facilitate research progress at a rate otherwise not possible." I interpret that to mean, "Since we have no one to answer to, we can do what we want," but you may read it differently.
Under the "Partners" section of their website they list:
- Cat[erpillar] tractors & engines
- Costa sunglasses and apparel
- Landry's dining, entertainment, and gaming
- Contender boats
- Yamaha outboards
- Yeti coolers
- Safe boats
- Xavient Information Systems
- The Billfish Foundation (sportfishing)
- LightHawk aircraft
None of these organizations are conservation or scientific organizations. Thus we are forced to assume that no legitimate scientific organizations have partnered with Ocearch. However, please note they are partnered with a sportfishing company, on whose board Chris Fischer previously served.
There is a question in the FAQ section, "Does Ocearch decide how sharks are handled?" Their answer is, "The tagging, handling and sampling procedures employed during the expedition follow the standards of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC.org) of each institution, which are made up of scientists and veterinarians." Having previously worked in Stanford University's Human and Animal Research Compliance Office I know a little bit about how organizational IACUCs work and how research protocols are approved. Any time an animal research project protocol is sent for review the reviewers (which do include peer scientists and veterinarians, and usually a lay community member) will scrutinize and approve or disapprove the methods being used by the researcher. However, what I do not know is a) if Ocearch's methods are reviewed and approved by institutional IACUCs, since they are a third-party, and if they are b) how detailed are the descriptions of Ocearch's methods, and c) does the IACUC have the ability to have Ocearch change their methods. And of course, there is always the possibility that some research, especially if the institute is based outside the U.S., is done without IACUC review or protocol approval.
Under the "Science" section of their website they throw out words like methodology but do not provide any actual information. As I was looking at this their website went down so I was unable to access the "Scientific Papers" section, but please see below.
Ocearch states, "There are approximately 40 research papers currently in preparation or completed based on OCEARCH expeditions and resulting studies." This is what really matters, right? Is what they are doing to the sharks worth it? So I did a literature search using Google Scholar through my university. I found seven mentions of Ocearch:
- 1 in Russian, appears to be about the Cat company
- 1 article was not available, but is not from a peer-reviewed journal and appears just to mention that Ocearch does tracking
- 4 blog entries and non-peer-reviewed papers
- 1 legitimate peer-reviewed scientific paper. Ocearch was given a citation here, and the tracking information used within was a brief mention not directly related to the research topic
Fischer's Facebook page lists five "Published Scientific Papers." All five references are mentions in one book, "Global Perspectives on the Biology and Life History of the White Shark," edited by Michael L. Domeier. The only place I could find these papers published was in this book; these are not peer-reviewed scientific papers. All papers listed Michael Domeier as an author.
Yes, there may be more research papers that have not yet been published, but their track record isn't good so far. I can say with confidence that, as of today, there have been no legitimate, peer-reviewed research papers that have used data collected by Ocearch to support their hypotheses. (Ocearch founder and leader Chris Fischer has zero shark research papers to his name.)
I welcome any additional information about Ocearch.
Edited by gina, 17 November 2013 - 03:22 PM.