The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary has recently posted a draft environmental assessment to analyze the impacts of issuing a permit to Dr. Michael Domeier of the Marine Conservation Science Institute, which would allow the tagging of 11 additional great white sharks (3 males, and 8 females) within the marine sanctuary, using the catch and release method that has been featured on National Georgraphic’s Expedition Great White.
Dr. Domeier was issued a 1-year permit in September of 2009. During the 2009 white shark season, he and his team used the catch and release method to tag 2 male white sharks at the Farallones. However, a bit of controversy stirred up when one the tagged sharks was hooked in the esophagus, and the circle hook had to be cut and left in the shark. According to the draft environmental assessment, “the public and members of the other research teams studying white sharks in the region were concerned that the shark had died and that the tagging was being conducted primarily for a National Geographic television program.”
It should be noted that the hooked shark made its normal migration pattern after the incident, according to data supplied from the tag, and that the tag was still reporting normal data 8 months after it was hooked. (see Southern Fried Science’s interview with Dr. Domeier)
Supporters of Dr. Domeier’s SPOT tagging methods argue that this research provides invaluable data, which cannot be gathered using other methods, and that the data could be beneficial to the species. Those who oppose these tagging methods argue that the potential gains simply do not outweigh the risks.
Regardless of which side of the fence you might be on, if you have genuine interest in this topic and are willing to read the environmental assessment draft, the GFMNS is open to your comments. Comments should be submitted to Carliane.Johnson@noaa.gov until October 12, 2010.