This summer is the ninth year of our White Shark Project. Through this work we have been able to display five juvenile great whites in our Outer Bay exhibit and have tagged and tracked these sharks, and nearly 40 others in the field, to learn more about the movements of these young animals along the coast.
This year, with the Outer Bay exhibit about to undergo a transformation, we won’t try to bring a shark to Monterey. But the field work continues.
From our previous research results we’ve seen that some young white sharks tagged in the southern California region move to, or return to, warmer winter waters off Baja California. We’d like to know if they return to California and regularly make this south-north migration, but the size of the young sharks limits the tag we can use, and thus how much information we can gather.
That’s why this summer, in addition to tagging animals accidentally caught in commercial fisheries, we’re using a different technology to try and establish if sharks seen and caught on both sides of the border are in fact part of the same population -– an important issue when it comes to management and protection of the species.
We’ll employ special acoustic tags, a technology already used in tracking salmon as well as other sharks. It involves fitting young white sharks with a transmitter that has its own electronic signature, one that will be recognized (and recorded) by a receiving station whenever a tagged shark passes by. We’ll be tagging six animals this summer this way and collecting data from all animals tagged in the field.
With recent DNA confirmation that California’s great white sharks are genetically distinct from other populations around the world, it’s important to gather as much information as possible to help us protect this top predator, an animal that plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy ocean.