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.