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.
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.
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.
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.