Perhaps the biggest shark controversy in the western hemisphere is about to play out this week at the Farallon Islands - and no one it seems, is happy about it.
Just 27 miles off the coast of San Francisco these small, protected islands, are home to some of the largest white sharks in the region.
They are also home to notoriously horrific weather, murky cold waters, and a few die hard shark researchers.
This week the same team who caught and tagged white sharks at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico in 2008 will be at it again, this time at the Farallons.
White shark fishing was banned in California over 15 years ago and it is only with special permits that this team is allowed to catch these animals. Therein lies the controversy. Fishing for white sharks.
The team is lead by Dr. Michael Domeier from The Marine Conservation Science Institute in San Diego. We have been supportive of this team for the past few years. Mainly because they have an established track record for working with white sharks that few others have.
The hooking of any white shark is a traumatic event, but the data that comes back from specialized tags that are drilled into dorsal fins gives researchers a window into the world of the white shark that few other tagging methods deliver. Sat tags are notoriously finicky with a high failure rate. These tags allow researchers minute by minute updates and last for years.
With enough of these invasive tags in place we should, in just a few years time, have absolute and definable small scale and large scale movement patterns of a large sampling of the western pacific white shark population.
We would rather see a professional team do this kind of very specialized tagging work. NOAA, the agency for permit approval, has chosen well. Still many are abjectly opposed to these tags and the manner in which they are applied.
The bigger question is not so much the work that is being done, rather the film crews who will be accompanying the effort. It's a double edged sword when you look at any invasive animal technique and film and television productions.
Short media samples of the Guadalupe production are causing a backlash from the community.
While images like the one featured in this post cannot be helped, the perception that this work is in anyway "fun" are what harm the effort. Media control is, as we have always said, 90% of perception.
Gentlemen, a word of media advice from those who know.
Lose the "Cool Dude Shaka images" standing next to captured white sharks. In the end these images will dog your continuing efforts for years to come.
Let's hope Nat Geo's handling of your tagging program is as serious as the subject matter.