Well tonight's episode; "Spawn of Jaws" in Discovery Channels Shark Week lineup was interesting.
A brief aside; yes, I am a Bigfoot Researcher, but I have other interests as well. I am a multi-faceted person. I don't just care about the documentation of Bigfoot. When I was a kid, I bought two kinds of books. Books on Bigfoot and books on Great White Sharks.
Why do sharks interest me so much? I don't think it's a short answer, but I guess there are many parallels between Bigfoot and Great Whites. They are both massive, very misunderstood, and very little is known about either. And, if you think Bigfoot takes down deer or other animals for food, that would put it in the category of a predatory animal. As I said in my last article, all predatory animals are important to the ecosystem they live in. Losing those animals always spells disaster for the entire ecosystem. They are both, also, very mysterious. So, why wouldn't I care about Great Whites?
For those of you who don't really follow anything "Shark", we see the return of Dr. Michael Domeier to television tagging Great Whites.
Yes, I said return. The first time I had ever heard his name was in connection with the show "Shark Men."
"Shark Men" was about a group of guys on a vessel called the M/V Ocearch. The show centered around trying get as many Great Whites tagged by hooking them, and guiding them to the boat and onto a hydraulic lift, which would raise these animals from the water so the work of tagging and gathering data could begin.
Now, while I wasn't completely thrilled with this, I know how important it is to get these animals tagged so they can be studied and better understood. Dr. Domeier was front and center in this pursuit and was able to gain useful data. He seemed to be very happy with the project.
But, last night, he made a few comments about how this process by the Ocearch crew was very stressful and dangerous to the Sharks.
So, now Dr. Domeier has devised a new method. A method I think I have more concerns about than what the men of the Ocearch are doing.
The new method consists of hooking the shark, pulling it along side a boat, wrangling it with ropes, and pulling it close to the boat allowing water to flow over the gills of the shark, keeping it oxygenated. The doctor would then lean over the edge to place a tag in the dorsal fin. Now, I saw something last night that was pretty disturbing. They made no mention of it - but it did in fact happen.
As they hooked the first shark, I believe it was a 14 to 15 footer - the shot from the air showed the Great White on its back, being pulled toward the boat. That is very bad. Why? Flipping a shark on its back induces a state called, "tonic immobility" - which means the shark is immobile. For all intense and purposes it is paralyzed. It is unable to right itself. Great Whites (along with most sharks) must swim in order to push water over their gills. Leaving a shark of any kind in this state for too long, will kill it.
So, they pulled the shark back to the boat, still on its back, and tried to get a rope around its head, but it slipped, and the shark was then in the water with its head pointed down and the sharks tail roped and in the air.
I can see how this is far less stressful for the shark.
It was decided to abandon the tagging of this shark, because it was simply in too much danger of not surviving the experience. So, they let it go. They said it swam away strong - but they didn't show that.
Each time they conducted this procedure, these animals would throw themselves into the boat. One 18 footer, (wow) which was almost as long as the boat they were in, had the hook stuck in its mouth. So, they had to cut it off with a saw of some kind. You could see the sparks flying and the show narrator said "The sparks are hitting the water, so the shark is not being injured." Tell that to the Shark that is probably freaking out.
I am not a "shark biologist", I am only someone with more than your average interest in this topic. I read everything I can find on Great Whites and there is one thing I know - stress on these animals is as dangerous to their survival as taking a harpoon and shoving it into their head.
After the first season of "Shark Men" these guys were subjected to all kinds of hate, people who say they care about these animals were furious and said they were subjecting these sharks to dangerous procedures that could kill them. Various groups tried to shut them down (and are still trying). There was a huge uproar. I will tell you this, the sharks tagged by Ocearch look a lot less stressed then the sharks I saw last night.
It just looked brutal.
Losing a 14 foot female is a bad thing (can you tell a boy shark from a girl shark?) At 14 feet, this is a mature mating female. She has probably already had two years of mating. I don't think I need to tell anyone how important healthy mature mating females are to the survival of this species.
Tagging and tracking of the Great White is so important to its survival. So, this is a necessary thing. I just hope Dr. Domeier perfects this for future sharks because honestly, it would be awesome to know where these magnificent animals are giving birth. While we know more now about the Great White than we ever did, there is still so much more we don't know.
So, suffice it to say, last nights show had me on the edge of my seat for all the wrong reasons. Honestly, I had a hard time watching this.
Tonight's episode is titled, "Great White, Serial Killer." I see Discovery is going with sensational this year. Geesh.
But, I'll be watching !!