Freed White Shark 'Phones' Home


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Posted by on May 04, 2005 at 06:00:28:

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

May 3, 2005 The great white shark held for a record-breaking 198 days at the Monterey Bay Aquarium before its release into the wild last month has just communicated that it is alive and well in the waters near Santa Barbara County.

An electronic tag, which researchers attached to its body upon release, made the communication possible. The device automatically popped off on its scheduled release date at the end of April.

"It's very good news that the tag came free on schedule," said Randy Hamilton, vice president of husbandry for the aquarium.

Colleague and marine biologist Randy Kochevar explained that the tag was programmed to free itself from the shark's body 30 days after its release, or if the shark became immobile for three days, meaning that it likely had died.

Motionless is hardly the word to describe the shark, which apparently has been on the move since her reentry into the wild near Point Pinos in Monterey County.

The tag popped free 25 miles west of Point Conception, Santa Barbara County. That location is 200 miles south of her release point, and closer to the waters off Huntington Beach in Orange County where a fisherman accidentally caught her in a net on Aug. 20, 2004.

That date marked a strange odyssey for the shark, which was held in a four-million-gallon ocean pen near Malibu before being transferred to the aquarium. There, it shared a large tank with other ocean creatures, including two soupfin sharks that it bit and killed.

After that incident, staff observed her chasing hammerhead and Galapagos sharks in the tank.

Animal rights activists expressed concern over the shark's health. It sustained injuries upon her initial capture, including a snout wound that Sean Van Sommeran, head of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, said never healed properly and was aggravated by the shark hitting the sides of the tank.

Kochevar told Discovery News that it remained unclear why the shark headed south upon her release. He said the waters were unusually warmer in Monterey than in Santa Barbara on that day. The current was traveling from north to south. It is possible the shark simply decided to go with the flow.

Over the next seven to 10 days, scientists will analyze temperature, pressure, and light data recorded by the tag. Pressure is a proxy for the depths at which the shark traveled, while light can determine longitude, latitude and time.

The leader where the tag had been attached remains on the shark, so it is possible, yet unlikely, that someone might spot her in future.

"Basically this is the end of her story," Kochevar said, before adding that the tale apparently has a happy ending. "It is early to say, but all indications are that she's healthy and well," he said. "It doesn't get any better than that."




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