Saturday, September 06, 2008

Another Great White shark at Monterey Bay Aquarium

A fourth great white shark in as many years has been placed on public display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

A young white shark was brought to Monterey from Malibu this afternoon, 12 days after she was caught in a seine net off the Southern California coast.

The shark, a 4 ½ foot, female weighing 55 ½ pounds, was brought north Wednesday in a 3,000-gallon mobile life support transport vehicle. Caught by aquarium collectors in Santa Monica Bay, she had been held since August 16 in a 4-million-gallon ocean pen off Malibu and was observed swimming comfortably and feeding in the pen before being brought to Monterey.

White sharks are in decline worldwide, in part because they’re slow to reproduce and because of growing fishing pressure decimating all shark species. White sharks are now a protected species in California and other U.S. coastal waters, as well as in South Africa, Australia, Mexico and several other nations.

Their fearsome reputation has also made them a target of trophy hunters and the curio trade.According to a news release, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the only institution in the world to exhibit a white shark for more than 16 days, and has documented the successful return to the wild of each animal kept on exhibit."As with three other white sharks brought to the aquarium since 2004, the aquarium hopes this one will stay on exhibit for months, as a way to change public attitudes and promote stronger protection for this magnificent and much-maligned ocean predator," the statement said.

Because of a planned renovation of the aquarium’s Outer Bay Exhibit starting in late 2009, this will likely be the last white shark placed on exhibit until 2011.Four other young white sharks were brought to the pen and ultimately released this summer because they didn’t demonstrate the swimming and feeding behavior that made this animal a candidate for exhibit.

Six other sharks caught accidentally in commercial fishing gear were tagged and released in the field as part of the aquarium’s ongoing White Shark Research Project.Since 2002, the aquarium and its partners have collected DNA samples, tagged and tracked 18 young sharks in the wild, and – on four occasions – brought a white shark to Monterey for exhibit.All three sharks previously kept at the aquarium were tagged and tracked after their release.

The latest, released in February, traveled to the southern tip of Baja California in 40 days then swam half way up the Sea of Cortez before its tracking tag popped free in mid-June and the battery on a second stopped reporting in late June.Nearly four years ago, the first female white shark exhibited in Monterey became “the most powerful emissary for ocean conservation in our history,” according to aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard.

The shark was part of the aquarium’s Outer Bay exhibit for six and a half months and was seen by more than a million people between September 15, 2004 and March 30, 2005. In follow-up surveys, visitors reported coming away with a deeper understanding of the need to protect white sharks and their ocean homes as a result of seeing the shark on exhibit.

Collectively, the three sharks exhibited at the aquarium have been seen by more than two million visitors. Since 2002, the aquarium has allocated more than$1 million toward field studies of adult and juvenile white sharks – research unrelated to the effort to put a white shark on exhibit. Data from tracking tags placed on adult and juvenile white sharks are providing new insights into the far-ranging travels of white sharks in the eastern Pacific, according to Barbara Block of Stanford University, a marine biologist and principal investigator with the Tagging of Pacific Predators – one of the aquarium’s key research partners.


The aquarium collaborates with the TOPP team and other researchers to tag young white sharks in southern California waters, and collect DNA samples for analysis of the population structure of white sharks in California and Mexico. Data from young white sharks tagged since the field project began in 2002 have been published in the scientific press, documenting the sharks’ use of nearshore waters in California and Mexico as “white shark nurseries.”

In the Monterey Bay Aquarium project, exhibiting white sharks has been the subject of a focused multi-year effort. This approach, developed in consultation with a panel of independent shark experts, is designed to minimize the stresses of collection, holding and transport.Before bringing a white shark to Monterey, members of the aquarium’s field team monitor its behavior to see if it has adjusted to swimming in an enclosed space.

The team offers salmon, mackerel and other fish, and confirms that the shark is feeding before an attempt is made to bring it to Monterey.The aquarium’s 1.2-million-gallon Outer Bay exhibit was designed for open-ocean animals like white sharks. It is home to Galapagos and scalloped hammerhead sharks, as well as large bluefin and yellowfin tuna, barracuda, ocean sunfish and other species.

With the first three white sharks, visitors saw the animals face-to-face, and learned about shark conservation issues in conversations with staff and volunteer guides; through an auditorium program devoted to the white shark project; and through exhibit graphics that specifically address the threats facing white sharks. Similar programs are in place for the new arrival.The aquarium is open daily through Labor Day from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and on Saturdays and Sundays until 8 p.m. (through August 31). Starting September 2, regular aquarium hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.


In October 2004, white sharks were granted additional protection by the 166 nations that are parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.The aquarium encourages the public to get involved in shark conservation by using its “Seafood Watch” consumer pocket guide to sustainable seafood.

Details are online at

Through its Center for the Future of the Oceans, the aquarium works with other institutions and agencies to develop the best strategies for white shark conservation in California waters. It is also part of a coalition working to establish a network of marine protected areas, including protected marine reserves where fishing is not allowed, along the entire California coast.



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