Featured Image Credit: Ocearch
By Kira Krall
George the great white is the first mature male caught and tagged by Ocearch in the waters off Massachusetts. Their extensive database has tagged and tracked dozens of sharks, representing all kinds of different species.
From the moment George grabbed onto the line, crew members knew it was different from past sharks. Females could take hours to finally take the bait. George immediately let the hook and line know that he meant business with an aggressive and sudden grab.
Getting hooked can be a stressful experience if performed improperly, so researchers typically give the shark 20 minutes to simmer down before bringing them up onto their specialized research platform. Data like skin and blood samples, vital signs and measurements are quickly taken before the shark is tagged and released back into the water. Watch a short clip of the process below:
This is huge in the world of shark research. Next to nothing is known about great white shark mating and we just learned about great white pupping grounds this past September. Tracking this male means that researchers can see where and when he overlaps with mature females in their database.
Identifying a shark as male or female is easy if you can get a good look at the ventral, or belly side of the shark. Males have two projections called “claspers” connected to their pelvic fins. In the above photo, a male is on the left and a female is on the right.
Understanding more about vital great white shark habitats will give us the ammunition to protect them. Sharks act as a natural population control for animals that eat what we eat. North Atlantic great white population recovery will help control the booming gray seal populations, who are often blamed for reduction in fishery numbers. That can have implications for other animals too. As the seals are eating more and more food from the ocean, there’s less available for the rest of us.