Monterey Bay Aquarium shark dies in fishing net

May 11, 2010 7:01:34 PM PDT
A Great White shark that helped to educate man about the plight of the species has died at the hands of man. The shark was the last Great White on display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and her death was accidental. She was caught in a commercial fishing net in off Baja California.

The young Great White was on display at the aquarium for 69 days in 2009 and was released back into the wild on Nov. 4, 2009. Researchers equipped her with two tracking devises. They knew she had traveled about 500 miles south and met her fate in a gillnet set by a fisherman in waters off Ensenada, Mexico.

"This just underscores the threats that these young sharks face in the wild," aquarium spokesperson Randy Hamilton said. "Though they're legally protected in both California and Mexico, they are still caught accidentally by commercial fishermen on both sides of the border. Not all of them survive."

The aquarium has had five sharks on display and then released since 2004. This is the only one known to have died. Another young female on display in 2008 was also caught in a fishing net shortly after her release. That took place in Southern California and the fishermen were able to untangle the shark from the net quickly and she survived.

"The researchers in Mexico are just as diligent as the researchers we work with in California; they are interested in protecting this species just as we are and this is an unfortunate event," John O'Sullivan, curator of field operations at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, said.

One tracking device was recovered from the shark's dorsal fin, but the tracking devise carrying more data is somewhere on a beach. Its last signal gives researchers some idea of the location, but the amount of kelp and debris will make it difficult to find. O'Sullivan says, if found, the device will give them a better idea of where the shark traveled in the months since leaving the aquarium and in turn give them better clues as to how to better protect the species.


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