Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tagging is imminent for Great White sharks in the Far North

Seeing a great white shark next to the boat is close enough for most people.

So imagine the nerves needed to haul one of the ocean’s most feared predators onto the boat to tag it.

For Conservation Department marine scientist Clinton Duffy, it’s all in a day’s work.

Clinton has spent the last three years hunting New Zealand’s coastal waters for great whites as part of a joint project between DOC, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, German website Shark Tracker and The German Society for Nature Conservation – NABU.

Next month, Clinton will hunt for great white sharks in the Far North in a bid to learn more about this species which is declining worldwide thanks to trophy hunters, shark control programmes, accidental capture in gill nets and vulnerability to over-fishing.

Tagging great whites with satellite tags will allow Clinton to capture data on light levels, temperatures and depths experienced by sharks.

His research has already debunked the image of great whites as cold water, coastal sharks.

Previously tagged sharks have been found as far away as Tonga, New Caledonia and the Great Barrier Reef and recorded diving to depths of 1000 metres.

Scientists have also discovered that great white sharks make trans-oceanic migrations to tropical waters.

They don’t know for certain why great whites take winter holidays in the tropics.

However, they may be searching for humpback whale calves, because a lot of tags have surfaced in or near calving sites.

Mr Clinton will talk about his work at the Houhora Big Fish and Sports Club on Friday at 7pm.

The evening promises to add a different perspective on the ‘Jaws creature of terror’ image that still plagues this vulnerable fish.


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