Monterey Bay Aquarium’s great white headed south

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Posted by on May 04, 2005 at 05:55:11:

In Reply to: Lucy's headed your way posted by Chuck Tribolet on May 03, 2005 at 07:06:34:

MONTEREY - Maybe she was homesick.

A great white shark on exhibit for 198 days and released March 31 from the Monterey Bay Aquarium traveled at least as far as the waters off Santa Barbara County.

She had been inadvertently caught by a fishermen last year off the waters of Huntington Beach.

A satellite tracker showed the animal swam at least 200 miles after her release, aquarium officials said Monday.

That’s a good sign, researchers said, but more information from the satellite tag will offer the rest of the picture in the coming days.

"It makes us hopeful she is doing well and headed south," said Randy Kochevar, the aquarium’s science communications manager. "The rest of the game has still yet to be played."

A satellite tag placed on the female great white popped off Saturday, about a month after the shark was set free, some 25 miles west of Point Conception.

That is a greater than 200-mile trek from where she was released in the waters off Point Pinos in Monterey County. The shark could have gone farther than 200 miles; it’s just that the tag popped off at that distance.

More data will come from the satellite tracker during the next several days as the tag sends signals to a satellite system that will offer individual days of data. It could take a couple of weeks for that data to be processed, Kochevar said.

That information will include about how deep the animal swam and for how long as well as what temperature the water was where she swam.

"(Right now) we still don’t know what happened between Point A and Point B," Kochevar said.

Researchers at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, the aquarium’s white shark research partner, will process the data.

The great white shark was released from the aquarium after a record-setting stint on exhibit, surpassing the previous record of 16 days.

She grew from a length of 5 feet and weight of 62 pounds to be 6 feet 4 inches long and tipping the scale at 162 pounds.

While popular with aquarium visitors, the shark eventually began to act like a great white shark.

She was released after growing so big aquarium staff were worried about handling her safely. Moreover, she was beginning to show signs of hunting roommates in the aquarium’s Outer Bay Exhibit.

The white shark fatally munched on two soupfin sharks.

Exhibiting the white shark was aimed at fostering appreciation of the mysterious species while learning more about white shark behavior, aquarium staff said.

Her display also saw a boost in attendance at the aquarium with about 1.9 million visitors coming in 2004 compared with 1.6 million in 2003.

The aquarium has committed $840,000 to studying great white sharks in the wild. That includes tagging sharks in Southern California and Baja California to learn more about when and where they move as well as performing DNA sampling to learn more about the population of white sharks in the region.

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