OCEARCH researchers off the coast of Cape Cod just caught and tagged their first great white of the season.
The expedition is supposed to last 30 days, and they are hoping to tag up to 20 animals, though this is the first great white they’ve been able to get on the boat. They found three Mako sharks and one blue shark previously on this expedition.
It first looked to be about 13 feet long, according to their Facebook page, where they’ve been posting updates about the expedition. Here’s an image they got before hooking the great white, which they baiting with a fake seal:
After hooking the shark they load the great white into a lift and dragged it out of the ocean onto the deck of the boat where the science teams get about 15 minutes to collect samples, weigh, measure, and tag it.
They don’t just tag the sharks they catch; they also get blood and tissue samples to study the animal’s physiology. The tags stay on the sharks and ping in their location for years after tagging. Previously tagged sharks can be tracked online.
The team is just beginning to understand the strange two-year mating cycle of these Atlantic great white sharks.
The shark seems to be a female, and actually measures about 14.5 feet long, according to OCEARCH’s twitter account:
Hooking a shark during these expeditions is exhilarating, program manager Greg Skomal told Business Insider:
“Everyone goes from zero to 100 miles per hour real quick. You wait for two days then suddenly a shark is sighted, then bang everyone gets fired up really quick and a lot of anxiety, super exciting.”
Here are the scientists are prepping and planning for their turn on the shark.
Expedition leader Chris Fischer told us that this is often the first time that some great white researchers see their study subjects alive. He said: “You deliver a shark to these people … these thought leaders from our most prestigious research institutions, and some of them break down in tears and that’s pretty cool.”
The program doesn’t just help scientists, but also educates the public about these giant animals:
“People are afraid of sharks because of the fear of the unknown. When we know where they are going and what they are doing, a lot of that fear is replaced with curiosity.”
A couple hours after first sighting the shark, they named her Betsy and let her go:
They also tweeted that “@CaterpillarInc fans named her after “Old Betsy” the nickname given to prototype of Caterpillar’s 1st diesel engine model.”
Her official profile on the tracker lists her as 12 feet and 7 inches long, weighing 1,400 pounds. Here’s her current location:
We will be watching for you on the tracker, Betsy.
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