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White shark released back into the wild by Monterey Bay Aquarium

logo mba White shark released back into the wild by Monterey Bay Aquarium

After being exhibited for two months at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a young female white shark was released back into the ocean Wednesday this week.

I’ve always said that these animals will tell us when it’s time to put them back to the ocean. Now was clearly the time,” said Randy Hamilton, vice president of husbandry for the aquarium.

The release was prompted by a change in behaviour; she started acting aggressive towards other sharks in the million-gallon aquarium and during the Halloween weekend she received a superficial bite wound. She also injured a galapagos shark by biting it and was observed chasing the scalloped hammerhead sharks.

We monitor the behavior of great white sharks very closely while they’re on exhibit,” Hamilton explained. “When we saw a new pattern of aggressive behavior, we decided it was best to release her.”

The young female was the fifth great white shark exhibited and successfully released back into the wild by the aquarium. Monterey Bay Aquarium is the only institution to keep a great white shark on exhibit for more than 16 days, get the shark to consistently take food from the staff, and document the animal’s successful return to the sea.

Just like this young female, the four previously released great white sharks were fitted with electronic tracking tags which make it possible to confirm the shark’s successful adaptation back into the wild. Two of the sharks travelled to the southern tip of Baja California and beyond after being released, while the third one opted for Santa Barbara waters. The fourth shark also stayed near Santa Barbara where it was caught and released by a commercial fisherman just a few days after being released from the aquarium and it was then reportedly in good health.

The female shark released this week has been fitted with two tracking devices; one that will deliver real-time data on her location and one that will collect and store information about her travels, the depths she dives to and the water temperatures she favours for about six months, before it pops free and delivers those data to scientists via satellite.

You can find the real-time data emitted by the first device on the TOPP website (Tagging of Pacific Predators): http://www.topp.org .

The shark was released in offshore waters near the southern tip of Monterey Bay shortly after sunrise.

Her health is excellent, and we learned a lot while she was with us. Based on past experience, we have every expectation that she’ll do well after release,” said Hamilton.

During her two month long stay (69 days to be exact) in the aquarium, she grew from 5-foot 3-inches to 5-foot 5-inches and put on an extra 20 pounds. She ate mackerel only and would happily gulp down up to three percent of her body weight in a day.

The exhibit of young great white sharks is part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s effort to change public attitudes towards the feared white sharks and raise awareness about the threats facing them in the wild. The first white shark was exhibited in 2004/2005 and was seen by over a million visitors before being released after six months in captivity. Collectively, the four sharks exhibited before the newest addition has been seen by almost 2.5 million visitors.

I can’t overstate the impact of this single animal on advancing our mission to inspire conservation of the oceans,” aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard said of the first white shark the aquarium had on exhibit.

The million-gallon Outer Bay exhibit will undergo renovations starting late August 2010 and it will therefore not be possible to see any great white shark at the aquarium until summer 2011 at the earliest.

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