Catching white sharks at Guadalupe on a rod and reel in the name of science?

UPDATE 10/12 National Geographic has recently uploaded a video preview of their documentary on this study. Thanks to the Shark Diver blog for the video find.

Maybe it’s just me, but I was somewhat taken aback when I saw the photo gallery accompanying the article, Great White! at OutdoorLife.com. According to the article, researchers used "rod-and-reel fishing techniques, modified to accommodate the hefty 4,000-pound great whites, to get the fish into the boat". The article features a photo album with various shots of "landed" white sharks, which appear to have been taken at Isla de Guadalupe. According to the article the sharks were baited with tuna. Once the sharks were hauled on to the boat, blood was drawn for testing and satellite tracking tags were attached to the sharks’ dorsal fins. The gallery ends with the following, "While it’s fishing in every sense of the word, it’s imperative that the sharks are released into the sea unharmed and unstressed."

This is how great white sharks at Isla de Guadlupe look when not pulled out of the water.
This is how great white sharks at Isla de Guadlupe look when not pulled out of the water.

While I don’t doubt the good intentions of the researchers, based on the pictures, it clearly doesn’t appear as if the sharks were "unstressed" throughout the experience. Being hooked, landed, and tied down seems like it would be a fairly stressful situation, although I’m not a "shark expert," so don’t quote me on that.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that the knowledge gained from the research could potentially benefit the species as a whole, but I have to wonder if this approach is really the ideal technique for gathering information about the white sharks at Guadalupe. Having been in the water with some of the sharks in the photos, looking at images of them tied down and out of the water just doesn’t sit right with me.

A documentary on this study will premiere on November 16 on The National Geographic Channel.

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