ABC feature on criticism of “catch and release” tagging technique of great white sharks

Dr. Michael Domeier’s “catch and release” technique for tagging sharks, which was employed last year at Guadalupe Island and featured on a new National Geographic series, has come under some criticism from other shark researchers, as of late, after the technique was used on two sharks off the Farallones Marine Sanctuary. San Francisco’s ABC-7 ran the following report yesterday on the topic.

The incident involved with the shark at the Farallones, in which a portion of the hook was left in the white shark’s throat, is sure to draw criticism from those who believe this technique is too invasive and harmful to the sharks involved. The incident also lends support Peter Klimley’s remarks that the costs might outweigh the benefits of this technique.

What jumped out at me the most, while watching this feature, was the fact that when the technique was first covered by Outdoor Magazine in the article Great White!, the article stated, “While it’s fishing in every sense of the word, it’s imperative that the sharks are released into the sea unharmed and unstressed.” Domeier’s comments in the ABC-7 report indicate that stressing the shark is an important aspect of the technique. However, the statement in the Outdoor Magazine article is not directly attributed to anybody involved in the research, so it might have been an error on the part of the author, John Burgman.

I have little doubt that Domeier has good intentions with this tagging program, and that the goal of the program is to gain more knowledge of the species, by doing multi-year tracking (which Domeier says is not possible with the harpooning method), in order to help protect white sharks. Domeier has a long-standing track record of white shark research, which can’t be ignored. However, I have a feeling that those who are critical of the technique will be put off by Domeier’s demeanor and perceived attitude displayed in the interview clips featured in the ABC-7 report (which may have been a result of clever editing, for all I know). In addition, the photo of the team apparently in a gung ho cheer after landing one of the white sharks at Guadalupe island probably won’t sit well with critics, either.

For more commentary on the subject, check out Shark Diver’s Underwater Thrills post and Pete Thomas’ post at the LA Times Blog, which features a response from Dr. Domeier in the comments section.


  1. Shark Diver says:

    Thanks for covering this. I think you’re right about Dr.Domeier’s bedside manner.

    His regular work with sat tags at ‘Lupe is seminal stuff and I hope he’s able to keep that separate from this issue.

    I have said it once and I will repeat it. The man is displaying a lot of hubris when he should be displaying at least a modicum of humble pie.

    I am officially not supporting anymore of his work in any capacity until he and he alone clears up the Farallones shark mystery.

    For me that is independent monitoring for a full year of the badly mauled shark he left up here.

  2. Deb says:

    I have to say, it seems like animal cruelty to me, too. I think researchers need to come up with a less invasive tagging technique. The guys says it’s no different from any catch and release fishing… well, I’ve always felt that was wrong, too. And, I feel certain that shark’s behavior was OF COURSE related to the trauma it experienced — swimming as fast as it could to get the heck out of there. Poor thing.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Melanie fleas says:

    That was appaling-many are calling his “technique” abuse. Email going to PETA and others. His bravado at “dominating” these beautiful apex predators will be the end for him.

  4. Linda Reese says:

    I go out to Guadalupe every year and I was appauled at what he is doing to the sharks. Bringing that big of an animal out of the water for as long as he does can not be healthy. Just the weight of it’s own body is bound to do harm! I don’t know the man but his arrogance on TV really hit me the wrong way. I truely hope he is stopped. Does he even have proof that the tag will last 6 years as he says?

  5. Chris LeGoffe says:

    It’s absurd to think that Domeier’s technique is cruel in any way. Put yourself in his shoes; how else would you affix a longer lasting tag to a fish of such large proportions? This is revolutionary especially for great white research since there is little known about where and when these apex predators reproduce. The data that will be collected from these “controversial experiments” will provide a much better insight in how to better conserve these animals, how often, or seldom they reproduce, and ultimately aid in better conservation of the species.

    The media, and all of these PETA lovers, and animal right activists are taking this way too far. At least these methods are for real scientific reseach, as opposed to the disgusting methods employed by Japanese whalers.

    People do your research, and stop being so critical. Domeier’s research is groundbreaking, and of course it will send shockwaves through the scientific community, as well as all of the animal right activists, but this is for the better of the species.


    PERSONAL NOTES::As a harpooner, with more than 40 years experience, targeting Giant Blue fin Tuna , swordfish, marlin and mako sharks. I feel compelled to offer my concern and objection with regards to the current financial and viral obsession with “White shark research” around the world and Cape Cod in particular.

    The Great White Sharks of Cape Cod are doomed to be “studied” into oblivion,(similar to the polar ice caps, ocean polution,air quality, ozone etc ectc…., by the “grant grabbers”and TV false reality productions. The Polar ice caps were hundreds of feet thick and “studied for decades “ while trickling down to oblivion. Grant grabbers have no incentive to solve the problem, to do so means unemployment!!

    The recent shark attack on Cape Cod can be attributed to the harassment/and life threaten harpooning and resulting interruption of the White $harks natural habits for survival. The sharks are always on the hunt and need to be left in peace.

    The harpooning TV segments I’ve seen has the harpoon throw too STRONGLY, surely causing harm to the shark( similar to a failed tuna tagging program with Blue Fin Tuna”) Reports of harpoon ( tagged), dead giant blue fin tuna and tags with infested areas at the tag entry were reported by fisherman in Cape Cod Bay.

    The infested areas and poor physical condition of the Giant Bluefin Tuna I have witnessed myself. This should not surprise anyone who thinks the whole concept thru A harpoon cannot be thrown softly– Hand held Harpoons were used to kill 50 ton whales. Harpoons are a lethal weapon..

    Natures creatures were not designed to carry a hand launched missile in an open wound or be amicable to the notion of being skewered and left holding “the bag” for “feel good” government agencies and there for profit surrogates.(taggers) ..

    The promoters of the disinformation harpoon tagging or other open wound tagging regarding this form of animal cruelty is beyond the pale. The public should be aware of the injustice these supreme creatures are being subjected to in the name of “Science”– ie:profit

    Among other violations of the sharks life style is its ability to feed itself as natural function of its biological time table .Being chased by boats and planes is an extreme form of harrassment.and denies feeding cycles to be completed.

    Imagine tormenting a tiger in a cage for days on end and then getting in the cage. This is what the swimmers on Cape Cod are doing by entering the water with tormented sharks. The swimmer was not eaten the shark was simply angry…i.e. The injured swimmer was released and spared his life by his attacker..The swimmer did not escape he was let go by the shark…

    Similar attacks occur were “catch and relaese”money gathering shark events occur.

    We now have the TV show “$hark Hunters “and self admitted novices coming here to further jeopardize the life of the sharks..such a shameful thing and terribly injustice. These particular money hounds are killing sharks with TV sponsors unwittingly participating. Taking a live shark out of the water , imagine how physically exhausted the $hark must be..Shameful Stupidity The show should be denied permits!!

    I’ve attended hundreds of meetings, over thirty years, and tried to do the right thing.. The managers of our fisheries and oceans are as foolhardy as any of our failed agencies that abuse natures and the public trust. The department marine fisheries were a harbinger of the on slot we see today of sociopathic behavior. The public record supports this allegation….

    Having worked with both directors of the Mass Department Marine Resources, Phil Coates (now retired) and his surrogate, Paul Diaodoti , for decades, I hold the DMR responsible for yet another scandalous policy and violation of the public’s trust.

    i.e.: Cape Cod Bay was a national treasure, Giant Blue fin Tuna.
    Phil Coates and Paul Diadoti allowed 5 tuna seiners , with mile long nets to devastate and exterminate the western Atlantic breeding stock bio mass of Bluefin Tuna that resided in Cape Cod Bay for 7 months each year..

    This National Treasure is GONE…35.000-40,000 giants tuna eliminated by the 1% .The seiners put themselves and all the others out of business….financial and recourse suicide with DMR”s stamp of approval……
    In my mind this was a criminal offense. (Violation of the Public’s Trust with depraved indifference.) White Sharks are under the assault of the grant grabbers and others profit in the name of “$science”…

    Most of the info gathered is a cesspool of “USELESS INFORNATION” that has no “practical” benefit for the sharks or humanity..
    CC:: All appropriate entities and individual

    White sharks and all natures ocean life/wildlife all over the Earth are in danger of these witch hunts and hunters…..Grant Grabbers

    This “For Profit Only “operation should cease operations and only be used to warn the swimmers at the beaches if necessary…

    Chip Bourget
    Executive Director NE Traditional Harpooners Association 207 284 3124


    N W

    From: “Diodati, Paul (FWE)”
    To: “”
    Cc: “DiFilippo, Glenda (FWE)”
    Sent: Monday, September 24, 2012 4:42 PM
    Subject: RE: SKOFFLAW INFRACTION:Whale meat as bait

    Scientists respond to the allegations that the OCEARCH expedition was linked to the fatal shark attack on 19 April 2012
    by Ryan Johnson on Friday, April 27, 2012 at 3:11am •
    (Please note – The Authorship of this document is from the scientific research team listed at the end of the article)
    In the wake of the unfortunate death of the body boarder Mr. David Lilienfeld during a shark attack at the Caves in Kogal Bay, False Bay, explorer Chris Fischer from OCEARCH and collaborating scientists on the expedition have come under severe criticism from certain members of the public. The ferocity and timing of the attack, and details of “chumming” being practiced to lure sharks to the vessel OCEARCH in False Bay for capture and scientific sampling, were alleged to be linked by these members of the public giving rise to condemnation. The critics argue that the expedition was to blame for causing a chum slick that resulted in sharks being present at the location of the attack, and/or causing the aggressive behavior of the shark responsible for the attack, possibly through conditioning (i.e. association of humans with food) or handling, or all of the above. The scientists collaborating on the OCEARCH expedition offer a broader and more objective( MY BUTT) perspective regarding both the activities of the expedition and the likelihood that the From: “Diodati, Paul (FWE)”
    To: “”
    Cc: “DiFilippo, Glenda (FWE)”
    Sent: Monday, September 24, 2012 4:42 PM
    Subject: RE: SKOFFLAW INFRACTION:Whale meat as bait

    Dear Mr. Bourget:
    During their most recent expedition off Cape Cod, the R/V Ocearch used whale tissue to lure sharks to the vessel for tagging. The use of whale tissue was authorized under a NOAA permit issued to the vessel. Every shark tagged this way is outfitted with tracking technology that allows for real time post-release behavioral observations, which are available for all to view at These observations indicate that the sharks survive.
    Paul Diodati
    Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
    251 Causeway Street
    Boston, Massachusetts 02114
    617.626.1509 (fax)
    activities led to the fatal shark attack on April 19, 2012.

    Mr. Diadoti,
    The only reason a person would give for insisting the whale flesh be used to entice the White Sharks to the Venture researchers 4400# hooks would be that the sharks cannot resist the smell and taste of the whale flesh. The only reason a person would approve a permit for this kind of skoffprotocl is arrogance and contempt for proven protocol.
    Whomever issued the permit to use the meat also triggered the natural obsession of the sharks craving from seal flesh to whale flesh. This would be equivalent to feeding sheep’s meat to a pack of wolves. The Cape Cod times relates that the r/v Ocearch was anchored 3.1 miles off Chatham shores.

    The notion that a arbitrary distance of 3 miles protects persons from shark attacks is absurd an insulting to any who consider the notion. The Ocearch was noted at 3.1 miles. The state of Mass is a enabler of this farce and will be responsible for any and all human injury as any criminal lawyer would conclude.

    The Cape Cod Times talks about “blocks” of whale meat and a wall of whale meat smell miles long.(surely going over that “fantasy and self serving” 3 mile shark safe zone barrior) Tons of whale meat would be on board to sustain this ongoing insult to the whales and $harks. Where does one acquire tons whale meat “tissue”??
    The shark was then forcibly dragged WITH GREAT FORCE (NOT GUIDED AS SKOMAL REPORTS) to a waiting “water board”, first being reduced to a quivering mass of oxygen starved meat. (near death). The shark was noted to have been located 17 miles from its preferred hunting area.

    The ping in NO WAY indicates the physical or mental condition of the creature. It does indicate the sharks “self deportation” from food sources and habitat it had chosen of its own free will resulting from the abuse and harassment of the ongoing bogus death squad of South Africans hideaways.

    The shark would be “”man??” handled and forcibly dragged to a waiting “water board “at the stern of the “mama”, but first being reduced to a quivering mass of oxygen starved meat. (near death).

    This vessel would have to be state of Mass. Approved and issued permits for this activity, as well as federal permits, to insure that all contingent situations were CYA. It would have been foolhardy to assume the vessel would always be located in Mass waters. We know that the operation was overseen by Mr. Somali , as reported in the biased and misinformed media.

    What shark informed these international wildlife abusers that a shark was OK to be abused to near death and was then viable for curiosity observations for 15 minutes…What utter convoluted non sense and fabrications/lies..

    You mention tissue?? Something got lost in transit..
    This program is” A “typical of NMFS and the state of Mass and around the world and will yet be known as one of the numerous and egregious violations of fishery managements shameless crimes perpetrated against natures laws. etc i.e. Blue fin Tuna, ground fish, sea /ocean herring add infinite.
    As the Canadian minister of fisheries related years ago he would no longer trust “Americas dirty hands management policies” and walked off the podium.. This is why the Canadians still have fisheries in place..
    My more than forty years hands on and direct involment as a commercial hand gear fisherman and observer and participant of NMFS makes me an expert with “no financial horses in the race”, only what is proven to be the best interests of the Oceans creatures. i.e. Bluefin Tuna,groundfish,sea /ocean herring etc. etc.
    With regards to the Bluefin Tuna the public record supports the notion that decisions made by yourself and Mr Cotes enabled the monopoly of east coast tune seiners to wipe out and effectively eliminate the western breeding stocks and historical NE hand gear fisherman. This has been a continuing MO as I have outlined.
    This would also be attributable to the harassment (plane-boat) by the state approved “Shark Hunters”. The recent shark attack can be attributed to the harassment and resulting interruption of the White $harks natural habits for survival. The sharks are always on the hunt and need to be left in peace.

    The harpooning TV segments I’ve seen has the harpoon throw too STRONGLY, surely causing harm to the shark( similar to a failed tuna tagging program with Blue Fin Tuna”) Reports of harpoon ( tagged), dead giant blue fin tuna and tags with infested areas at the tag entry were reported by fisherman in Cape Cod Bay.
    I supplied research papers re stress related symptoms of sharks(death-attacks-feeding disorder) to yourself and MR Skomal and Mr. Chase under separate cover.
    Mr. Skomal talks about a microscopic (his retirement plans) look at the White Sharks life.

    Mr. Skomal would do just fine in a biology lab, I guess, but has no place in the natural world of the sea. He has shown no respect for the beast he is in charge of. I.e.( “care-custody-control”)
    With all due respect
    Chip Bourget

    (HARPOONED OFF CHATHAM) Officials could not determine a cause of death for a 13-foot adult male great white shark that washed up on the border between Westport and Little Compton, R.I., this morning, officials said.
    “It will probably remain a mystery,” (predetermined conclusion ie spin)said Dr. Greg Skomal, a marine biologist with the of the state Division of Marine Fisheries.( see
    The dead shark was found in the surf near Goosewing Beach around 8:30 a.m., said Sergeant Steven Criscione of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
    The shark likely died less than a day before washing ashore, he said. No signs of fishing hooks or foul play were discovered, Skomal said. (THE CONDITION CLEARLY INDICATES THIS SHARK DIED MANY DAYS BEFORE—MORE DISINFORMATION/SPIN)
    “The problem is the animal was so badly abraised by sand and rocks that it’s hard to tell if it’s had any interaction with fishing gear,” he said.
    In a four-hour field necropsy, Skomal determined the shark had an empty stomach and no obvious signs of trauma. He speculated the shark (may!!!!!!!) have been caught in fishing gear. Fishermen are legally prohibited from carrying sharks to shore and usually release them into the current if they accidently catch them in their nets. NOTE: “This is an intentionally false and misleading “perceived reality” gimmick statement put forward to deceive the public and sublimely blame fisherman
    Great white sharks have been swimming off Massachusetts coasts all summer, attracted by seals they prey upon.
    “On average, in general (???????????), we have noticed a trend upward,” he said.
    On Friday, two great whites were tagged near Nauset Beach in Orleans, bringing the number of sharks tagged off Massachusetts to at least 11 this summer.
    Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at
    < Read Full

    WHEN A SHARK LOOSES ITS ABLITY TO HUNT AT 100% EFFICIANCY IT DIES A SLOW AND PATHETIC DEATH ceb .jr (as all other creatures in this world..)
    Sharks are among the most fearsome creatures in the ocean. As you might’ve learned during Shark Week, they can grow to nearly 40 feet in length, have up to 3,000 teeth at any given time and are often the apex predators in their ecosystems, meaning that they can eat virtually any other animal in their environment and have no predators of their own.
    There is, however, one exception—humans. Many species of sharks are highly endangered, and 32 percent of shark species are classified as threatened with extinction. Once considered “by catch” (meaning they were inadvertently caught in the nets of fishermen seeking other species), they’re now increasingly targeted for their meat and fins.
    They’re also threatened by a rather surprising problem: stress. “In recent years, there’s been a lot of research on sharks and stress,” says Lisa Naples, a veterinarian at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. “When introduced to a stressful event, they will have a variety of physiological responses to that stress, and we’ve found that some of these reactions are potentially life threatening.
    Which is why Naples and others including Disney’s Animal Programs are mounting an ongoing project to sample the blood of sharks both in the care of Shedd Aquarium and in the wild, with the hope of creating a better understanding of how stress makes them sick—and perhaps someday develop a medicine that prevents this dangerous response. The team’s first study, published last month in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association, draws upon samples they took from 66 sharks from different species in the wild, off the coast of the Florida Keys, and compares these to those of sharks in the care of Shedd Aquarium to establish a model for precisely what physiological changes occur.
    A surprisingly wide range of events can trigger a dangerous stress-related reaction in a shark, Naples’ team has found. Environmental factors, such as heavy pollution, a change to the local habitat or even getting caught on a fishing line can induce the dangerous physiological changes that the researchers are studying.
    These changes mainly relate to the animals’ blood chemistry. In the event of stress, lactic acid builds up in the blood, and if the blood escalates to a dangerously acidic level, permanent damage can occur, leading to sickness or perhaps even death. “As an analogy, it’s like what human runners experience when they get lactic acid build up in the muscles,” says Naples. “But with sharks, if they develop a severe enough level of lactic acid, they aren’t able to rebound from it. It can permanently effect all the cells in their body and become life-threatening.”
    The research on this phenomenon is still in the early stages, but ongoing blood sampling is revealing some surprising nuances in the ways that it affects sharks in the wild. “We’re finding that individual species of sharks will respond differently to a stressful event, in both the degree to which they change physiologically, and their ability to recover from it,” Naples says. The researchers hope that their efforts will help them to understand just how much of a risk stress-related acid buildup is to wild sharks, and how much of a role it’s currently playing in threatening different species.

    sharks. “If you know that they’re going to experience certain physiological changes, you work to find medical ways of assisting them,” says Naples. “There’s a potential for an oral substance—meaning either a pill or a liquid that goes down orally—or even an injectable medication that could help them counter the physiological changes.” Such a treatment might be deployed by fishing industries, so they could give it to sharks accidentally trapped as bycatch, increasing the odds of the sharks’ survival once they’re thrown back in the ocean.
    It could also have broader applications for shark species put seriously at risk in the case of a catastrophe or environmental harm. “Our work will study the impact that issues such as climate change, oil spills and other environmental factors have on the overall health of sharks,” Naples says. Someday, in the rapidly warming waters of the Caribbean, instead of swimming away from sharks, we might be giving them medicine.

    Posted By: Joseph Stromberg — Earth,Ideas & Innovations,Mammals,Oceans,Science,Wildlife | Link | Comments (2)

    Great White Shark Jumps Into Research Boat in South Africa
    Published July 20, 2011

    A group of marine scientists were startled by an unexpected guest: a great white shark that lept into their boat. (Oceans Research)
    MOSSEL BAY, South Africa – Marine scientists studying sharks in South Africa got closer to their subject than they expected — when a great white jumped out of the sea and into their boat, according to reports Tuesday.
    Six members of Oceans Research organization were collecting data on sharks in Mossel Bay, 241 miles west of Cape Town, when the nine-foot, eight-inch long shark leaped out of the water and landed on the boat's fuel and bait storage containers, the Cape Times reported.
    "Activity around the boat ceased and all was pretty quiet at the stern," team leader Dorien Schroder said.
    "Next thing, I hear a splash and see a great white breach out of the water from one side of the boat hovering, literally, over a crew member chumming on the port side."
    The crew backed off, hoping the shark would find its way back to the water — but the 1,102lbs animal panicked, cutting fuel lines as it thrashed about.
    After radioing for help, the scientists poured water over the shark's gills to keep it alive, and tied a rope around its tail in an attempt to pull in back onto the ocean
    When that didn't work, the boat was eventually towed back to harbor and the shark was lifted back into the water with a crane. But, unable to navigate out of the harbor, it beached itself half an hour later.(THE CREATURE ONLY WANTED TO DIE)
    A team led by Oceans Research's co-director, Enrico Gennari then tied ropes to the shark's tail and pectoral fins, and slowly towed it out to sea, where the fish recovered and swam away, according to The Guardian. ( this shark was dead meat to believe otherwise would be delusional)
    Gennari said Monday's incident was the first time he'd heard of a great white jumping onto a boat, but said the fish could have mistaken the boat's shadow for prey or been disturbed by another shark.
    "It's all speculation," he said. "But sometimes a shark breaches the surface when it feels another shark underneath it. They [move] like a flying fish and end up several meters [yards] away." (THIS IS INSULTING DISINFORMATION)
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