Beachgoers on Cape Cod may have spotted several sharks this summer, but when Chris Fischer and his crew - former subjects of the television show ”SharkWranglers” - went looking for the great whites here in early September, there were none.
Crew members scanned the sea from their converted crabbing vessel, the Ocearch, anchored approximately five kilometers off the Cape. They tossed out chum and waited.
Nine days passed. Then, on September 13, a giant shark that would become known as Genie burstinto oceanographic history. Hooked in the corner of her mouth, she was, Mr. Fischer said, the firstgreat white - all
1,040 kilograms of her - to be captured live off Cape Cod, the home waters of the movie ”Jaws.”
The Ocearch crew held her for 15 minutes in a cradle off the side of the boat. Scientists attached a Global Positioning System tag to her dorsal fin and took blood and tissue samples before releasing her. Now the researchers, and anyone with an Internet connection, can follow her movements in real time online on the ”shark tracker” on ocearch.org.
Four days later, the team landed a much bigger female - Mary Lee, who weighed in at 1,568 kilograms and measured about five meters. She exhausted herself before the crew pulled her into the cradle, with her thrashing tail swatting three of them.
Catching sharks is something that Mr. Fischer, the founding chairman of Ocearch, a non profit organization that facilitates research on oceans and fish, and his crew have done scores of times.Before arriving here, they completed a similar expedition off South Africa, where they tagged dozens of great whites whose travel patterns can also be followed online.
The purpose of their mission, said Mr. Fischer, 44, is to understand the sharks’ migratory patternsand breeding habits, with the goal of providing policy makers with data to protect them.
Some environmentalists see the live capture of sharks as more invasive than other methods of tagging, like using a harpoon to implant a tracking device. Environmentalists argue that the useof hooks and a method that exhausts the sharks before pulling them out of the water subjects them to unnecessary trauma.During the South African expedition, one shark died.
There was concern that in addition to harming the sharks, the Ocearch project was being carried out under the guise of science for sensationalist and for-profit purposes like reality television. Mr. Fischer and his crew completed their 16-day expedition on September 20 with periodic visits from scientists and journalists but no reality-TV cameras.
Mr. Fischer dismissed the objections. He said tags implanted on sharks through harpooning areless reliable than those attached to the fin because they can fall off after six months and they emit a signal only if receivers are placed in the water around them. It is impossible, he said, to plant receivers everywhere the sharks might go. By contrast, the GPS tags can be read by satellites every time the fin breaks the surface of the water and can emit signals for five years.
Greg Skomal, a shark expert working for Massachusetts, was on the Cape Cod expedition. He has tagged sharks through harpooning, but this was the first time he had his hands on a live one. “Anytime you capture a fish by any methodology, you’re going to expose it to some level of stress,” he said. “But we try to minimize that.”
Through an instrument called an accelerometer - similar to a ”black box” in an airplane that was attached to the sharks for several hours - Dr. Skomal could follow their behavior after they were released.
Genie and Mary Lee are now broadcasting their locations to satellites and creating an online trail ofwhere they have traveled since they were tagged.
From Chatham, Genie headed south, and then turned around; she is now lurking off the southern coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Mary Lee swam north to Wellfleet, Massachusetts, veered out into the Atlantic and then headed south.
“They show up at the Cape and they leave, and we don’t know anything about them or what they’redoing,” Mr. Fischer said. “This tracking will begin to reveal their lives. Anybody can learn about these sharks and follow their story.”
|Forest & Bird has joined forces with other groups to put an end to shark fining. So far, 98 countries have banned shark fining. NZ hasn’t. In NZ waters, it is completely legal to kill a shark only for its fins and dump the body overboard. We think this is an unsustainable and wasteful practice, especially as global shark numbers have|
|rapidly declined in recent decades. The government is reviewing the National Plan of Action for sharks. Please sign our petition and watch for updates on how you can have your say. Visitwww.nzsharkalliance.org.nz for more information.|
See new factsheet on shark fining here
- Costa Rica Bans Shark Finning (huffingtonpost.com)
- Costa Rica passes ban on taking of shark fins (reuters.com)
- Costa Rica officially bans shark finning (greenerideal.com)
- Applaud Costa Rica for Improved Ban on Shark Finning (forcechange.com)
- Call for Govt to help end shark finning (nzherald.co.nz)
- Thousands of Gulf Sharks Caught During Annual Fishing Ban (greenprophet.com)
- The truth behind Shark Week: They should be afraid of Us. (elephantjournal.com)
- Global shark conservation plan in the balance at landmark talks (guardian.co.uk)
- Hope for the shark (fijitimes.com)
- Calgary city council passes first reading of shark fin ban (cbc.ca)
He drags the line with him as he walks the length of the jetty and on to the sand of the popular family beach.
The angler has hooked something big – and it takes all his strength to bring his catch to shore.
When it arrives, families relaxing and playing nearby are shocked to see a 2m shark on the beach.
Moments after this image was taken last month – by a concerned woman – the angler began cutting up the shark.
Incidents such as this have prompted a call by the Federal Labor MP for Hindmarsh, Steve Georganas, for the practice – which is legal – to be banned.
But the SA Recreational Fishing Advisory Council says if people don’t like it, “they should stick to swimming pools”.
Mr Georganas said he had been approached this summer by residents reporting seeing fishermen using rotten meat and chicken carcasses – which is against the law – to lure the sharks into shore.
He said the bait was tied to a line and a balloon, then towed out several hundred metres on a dinghy or boogie board.
Fishermen then watched until the balloon disappeared beneath the waves, signifying they have caught a large fish.
“Shark fishing at metropolitan beaches should be banned as it puts members of the public, particularly families with young children, who swim at these beaches at grave risk,” Mr Georganas said.
“Luring sharks into crowded metro beach areas is irresponsible, stupid and plain dangerous and should be stopped immediately.”
Recreational fishing council executive officer Gary Flack said claims that beach users were in danger were wrong.
“I would be extremely surprised if anyone did that (used illegal bait),” he said.
“A chicken carcass wouldn’t attract a shark anyway. I’ve done the research and I couldn’t find any reports of shark attacks near a jetty in SA ever.
“There’s more risk getting in a car and driving to the beach than the possibility of getting attacked by a shark.
Mr Flack said most shark fishing was done at night, when no swimmers were around.
Phil Peterson, whose son Nick, 18, was killed by two great white sharks off West Beach in 2004, said he’d like to see portable netted enclosures installed at metropolitan beaches, especially when practices such as shark fishing were luring the predators closer to shore.
“I’m thinking of the young families, the mothers and babies, and I can’t understand why the Government won’t sort it out,” he said.
Henley Beach mothers Nicole Durant and Amanda Hawke witnessed a shark being caught near the jetty last summer and were concerned the practice would attract dangerous sharks to the area.
“I think it’s terrible, especially in such a family-oriented spot,” Mrs Hawke said.