CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - The Discovery Channel's much anticipated "Shark Week" kicked off Sunday, and for the fourth year in a row, researchers at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi are at the center of an episode.
The group takes us into the Gulf of Mexico as they use artificial reefs for conservation.
Shark sightings near Bob Hall Pier on Padre Island aren't all too uncommon, and because we do see sharks in our Gulf waters, the Harte Research Institute at TAMUCC was invited to play a big role in Discovery Channel's "Shark Week."
The researchers lived on a raft in the Gulf of Mexico for seven days, surrounded by sharks.
"I grew up watching 'Shark Week,'" TAMUCC researcher Kelsey Gibson said. "I always loved it. Always wanted to be on it. Never thought it would happen."
Gibson was one of the researchers tagging dorsal fins on mako sharks to find out where they breed and migrate to, and if they are using a special artifical reef the researchers deployed in the water to keep them from being killed for their fins.
"We're concerned about removing too many sharks, and so if they can use articial reefs as alternative habitats, that's a good thing," said Greg Stunz, Marine Biology Professor at TAMUCC's Harte Research Institute.
So far they have found the sharks they tagged in the Gulf during the winter end up migrating to the Caribbean for the summer, then come back into the Gulf to breed; and the more they use the artificial reefs, the better it is for all sea life, including sea turtles.
"We like to say an ocean without sharks is much scarier than an ocean with them," Stunz said.
The episode, called "The Lost Cage," airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday on Discovery Channel. Brewster Street Icehouse will host a watch party, and the researchers starring in the episode will be there at 6 p.m. with some of their shark tagging equipment for a meet-and-greet.
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