What happened to the legendary great white shark, Cal Ripfin?

Now, that August has arrived it’s about that time of year when great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) begin to arrive at Mexico’s Isla de Guadalupe Biosphere Reserve. The island is regarded as one of the best places on Earth to view white sharks in their natural habitat. However, it’s one shark in particular that many are holding out hopes to see return.

Cal Ripfin great white shark
Cal Ripfin (aka Shredder) was one of the most well-known great white sharks at Guadalupe prior to his disappearance following the 2011 season.

From 2001 to 2011, Cal Ripfin (aka Shredder) was one of the most well-known great white sharks to visit Mexico’s Isla de Guadalupe. Easily recognized by an injury to his dorsal fin that occurred sometime between the 2004 and 2005 season, Cal was a “fan favorite” of divers and photographers due to his inquisitive and curious nature. He would often swim right up the cameras as if he was posing for a photo opportunity.

White sharks gather at Guadalupe in the later months of the year, with the prime season considered to be between August and November. Cal consistently visited Guadalupe every season for 10 years straight, and his arrival was generally quite predictable. In 2009, he was absent early on in the season, which caused a bit of concern among researchers and divers, but he eventually showed up about midway through the season. However, after failing to be seen during the 2012 season, concerns once again rose for the well-being of Guadalupe’s favorite shark. When 2013 and 2014 passed by without any sighting of Cal Ripfin, hopes of his return were dampened even further.

great white shark close-up
Cal Ripfin (aka Shredder) wasn’t shy about swimming right up to the camera, which often created great opportunities for close-up shots.

While migratory tracking data is limited among Guadalupe white sharks, the available data indicates that SPOT tagged males follow a somewhat predictable pattern each year. The data shows males traveling to Guadalupe in the latter half of a year, and spending the rest of their time in the Shared Offshore Foraging Area (SOFA) (aka “the White Shark Cafe”), a remote area in the mid-Pacific. If the tracking data available is representative of the migratory behavior of all male Guadalupe white sharks, it does not bode well for Cal Ripfin, given his 3-year absence.

Cal Ripfin great white shark
The question of why this male great white shark suddenly stopped returning to Guadalupe is one that will likely go unanswered, unfortunately.

So, what could have happened to him? Did he change his migratory routine? Did he die of natural causes, fall prey to another predator, or end up in a fishing net? At this point, it seems likely that his fate will always remain a mystery.

Somehow, I still have a tiny glimmer of hope that he’s still out there, but with each year that glimmer gets a little more faint.

Video: Baited great white shark bumps into cage

A video shot off Gansbaii, South Africa of a white shark bumping a cage, after charging a hang bait, has been making the rounds in the (largely tabloid) media today. Some of the more creative news outlets have referred to the shark in the video as “trying to bite through steel bars of diving cage” and “charging the cameraman.” However, the behavior seen in the video does not appear to document anything beyond the shark going after a bait in close proximity to the cage and then bumping the cage after the bait was pulled away. The white shark does get briefly “tangled” with the bars of the cage, but eventually swims off without further incident.

White sharks do not have the ability to swim backwards, so when they are charging a bait momentum will often cause them to continue in the same direction, even if the bait is pulled away from them. Additionally, when attempting to bite prey, white sharks will often roll their eyes backward as a protective measure, rendering them temporarily blind, which can also contribute to collisions if bait is close to cage. The behavior exhibited in this video seems consistent with a shark merely going for a hang bait and subsequently bumping into the cage as a result.

Woman celebrates 100th birthday with great white shark dive

As part of Georgina Harwood’s 100th birthday celebration, she went on a great white shark dive off Gansbai, South Africa, yesterday. In addition to the shark dive, Harwood also celebrated turning 100 with a skydive two days earlier. Harwood, a great-grandmother, began skydiving when she was 92, but this was her first shark dive.

Her recent skydive was done, in part, to help raise money to buy life-jackets for volunteers at South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute, according to a HuffPost UK article.

If you’d like to donate to Harwood’s life-jacket fundraiser, you can do so here.

Great white shark caught from Florida beach

The catch and release of a young great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) off of a Florida beach near Panama City has been making headlines for the past few days. According to a photo on Dark Side Sharker’s Facebook page, fisherman Derrick Keeny landed the shark on March 1, 2015. The male white shark measured 9’8″ and is believed to be the first of its species to be landed from a beach in the Gulf of Mexico. The fisherman tagged the shark as part of the NOAA/NMFS Cooperative Tagging Plan and released it back into the ocean.

While the fishermen involved in the catch seemed to be well-intentioned with the tagging and release of the shark. Some shark researchers and conservationists called into question the legality of bringing the shark up onto the beach and posing for pictures, which is in violation of Florida’s protected species regulations, which specifically prohibit delaying the release of the shark for measurements and photos. It has yet to be reported whether the fishermen involved will be subjected to any legal repercussions.

More images of the event are available of the Dark Side Sharkers Facebook page.

VIDEO: The Australian Museum receives rare goblin shark specimen

The Australian Museum recently received a new intact goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) specimen. The specimen is that of a young male and measures 1.26m in length. The shark was caught off Eden, New South Wales in water that was “several hundred meters deep.” This marks the fourth goblin shark in the museum’s Ichthyology Collection.

The goblin shark is a deep-water species that is rarely encountered by humans. It is known for its rather unconventional appearance, which includes pink skin, a flattened snout, and a jaw that can extend forward to capture prey. Adult goblin sharks are thought to typically reach lengths between 3-4m. Though, a specimen caught Gulf of Mexico in 2000 was estimated to be between 5.4 and 6.2m.

For more information about the recently added goblin shark, check out The Australian Museum’s website.