Great White Shark Released Off California

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Posted by on March 31, 2005 at 19:26:46:

MONTEREY, Calif. (Reuters) - A great white shark in captivity for a record six months was released into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday after it attacked and killed two smaller sharks in its tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The female shark -- not quite a year old now -- was starting to act like a hunter in the huge display tank where she has lived 198 days with a number of smaller sharks, tuna and other fishes and turtles, aquarium scientists said.

She bit and killed a soupfin shark in late February and another earlier in March, but the aquarium staff did not see clear hunting behavior until Monday, said Randy Kochevar, a marine biologist at the aquarium.

"For the first time, she was chasing other things around. She was hunting," he said.

Before the Monterey Bay Aquarium obtained this shark, the longest a great white shark had survived in captivity was 16 days.

The young shark was also growing too large for the exhibit, growing to 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 meter) and 162 pounds (73.5 kg) since she was caught in a fisherman's net off Southern California in August 2004, the scientists said.

"We were concerned with her size and when we saw this change in her behavior, we decided the time was right to release her," Kochevar said.

The shark was about 5-foot-long (1.5 meter-long) and weighed 62 pounds (28 kg) when it was first brought to the aquarium. It has been hand-fed two to four pounds (1-2 kg) of salmon, tuna and mackerel almost every day since.

The great white shark was released into the waters of Monterey Bay, about 100 miles south of San Francisco, shortly before sunrise on Thursday.

Marine scientists said the young shark should adapt easily to life in the wild. She was equipped with a tag to track her movements for the next 30 days.

Nearly one million people have crowded around the display to watch the shark swim and hear commentators talk about survival challenges in the oceans and the need for conservation.

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