Friday, March 26, 2010

Farallones Tagging Disaster - Follow Up?

In 2009 a film/research team badly mauled a white shark at the Farallone Islands.

What is not in dispute is the fact that a circle hook, very similar to the one seen here, was embedded deeply in the throat of a white shark.

The team went on to try and remove this hook by pushing bolt cutters through the gills of the animal and only succeeded in getting a fraction back leaving the animal with a hook still embedded in it's throat.

The resulting media storm over this event sent shock waves through both the research community and the commercial shark world. Only a few of the commercial shark diving operators on the West coast of the USA got in front of this issue, we were one of them. Others who are far more commercially invested in the Farallones said and did little in the public forum for reasons that remain their own.

Our long standing commercial and conservation efforts with sharks have been predicated by one mandate "do no harm to sharks." We support all research and commercial endeavors until they break that simple tenant.

The badly mauled shark at the Farallones was tagged with a real time GPS monitor and we were told the animal was "in great health." Unfortunately since December 8. 2009, all our efforts to get this real time data monitored by an independent source seemed to have hit a wall.

To date we have sent six emails to NOAA's and GFNMS regional managers and have been told the following:

The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary will work with an independent, qualified reviewer with expertise in white shark behavior, husbandry, and/or health to assess the status of the sharks tagged last Fall around the Farallon Islands.

b) The independent reviewer will assess the status of the sharks by reviewing footage of the tagging operations and comparing the tracking data from Dr. Domeier's tags with the tracking data from TOPP's research project at the Farallones over a year's timeframe. The GFNMS has already contacted Dr. Domeier for his data to begin the assessment.

c) The GFNMS will notify you as soon as that person has been identified and the work has begun.

d) The GFNMS will notify you of the results and post the results of the assessment on the Gulf of Farallones website (

It has been five months since this tagging disaster and we have not heard anything from NOAA or the GFNMS staff in regards to this pressing matter and it is time that we did.

Editors Note: Fiji's Da Shark has weighed in on this issue (again) and we have to agree with his take, makes for great additional reading.


glossaddict said...

I am just finishing up "Devils Teeth" by Susan Casey that is based on the Farallones and the sharks found there. It is an interesting book and it does mention the GPS trackers they use.

Brenda said...

i agree with you guys this whole thing has been badly handled from the get go where is that shark?

simple question and with real time gps should be a simple answer so why is it taking 5 months?

George said...

When was the last time the shark in question was reported to be "in great health?" Was that back when the incident first occurred or is somebody involved with the project still echoing that status?

Domeier's justification for his technique was largely based on the fact that he could get real-time data, so checking on the status of the mauled shark seems like it should be a fairly simple request to address.

Shark Diver said...

One might assume that would be the case George. Let me make this very clear, we were very strong supporters of Dr D and his work at I.G for many years.

Any thoughts contrary to that are incorrect.

We part ways with researchers and commercial companies that do bad things with sharks. Full stop.

There are many in our industry who will turn a blind eye, or even celebrate those who do bad things with sharks, we will not.

I think drawing the line at an embedded circle hook in an animal is a perfectly fine line.

Some may disagree, that is their own moral compass at work and we have no opinion about that.

Todd said...

Regardless of the achievements of Domeier's film crew and research team the handling of that one shark remains a dark moment on his record.

Let's see the data and then let's have a proper discussion about the methodology.

Mike said...

Questioning research is a healthy aspect of science. As with any research project there has to be the evaluation of risk vs benefit prior to moving forward. I was at the Syposium in Hawaii where Domeier and his colleagues presented the data on these Farallon sharks. They both appear alive and acting 'normal' for the 3 months following their tagging. The Symposium was well attended with researchers from So. Africa, Australia, Mexico, the EU, and the US. Several people from the government agency that oversees the permitting and research at the Farallons were in attendance and they appeared satified with the data. It appears that the data you are asking for has been presented publically and has been well received. Your web page has an excellent collection of information which has enormous educational value, but maintaining that value should be unbiased in it's content.