National Geographic’s Expedition Great White premieres tonight at 9pm on the National Geographic Channel. However, you don’t have to wait tonight to get a sneak peek. National Geographic has made the episode “First Bites” available on Expedition Great White YouTube page (the episode is embedded below).
Expedition Great White focuses on a research team, headed by researcher Dr. Michael Domeier, whose goal is to gather tracking data on great white sharks at Isla de Guadalupe (filmed in the fall of 2008). Domeier’s team uses a catch-and-release technique to SPOT (Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting) tag great white sharks in order to provide researchers with real-time tracking information. After hooking and bringing in a white shark using a rod and reel, the shark is then brought onto a platform and raised out of the water in order to have a satellite tag attached to the shark’s dorsal fin. In addition to attaching the SPOT tag to the white shark, samples were also taken from the shark for research efforts.
Unlike traditional pop-up tags that report data after detaching from the shark and surfacing, the tags that Domeier’s team uses in Expedition Great White reports real-time data whenever a tagged white shark surfaces. The tags are expected to be able to transmit for six years.
Domeier’s catch and release method drew some criticism last year after an incident at the Farallon Islands, in which a hook was stuck in the mouth of a captured great white shark, requiring that the hook be cut with part of the left stuck in the shark’s mouth. However, Domeier’s team has since reported that the shark’s tag is still reporting data, and the shark is in good health.
While elements of Domeier’s methods may seem questionable to some, the results of his efforts in terms of producing real-time data could prove invaluable in terms of gaining knowledge about white shark behavior. Personally, I can find merit with both sides of the argument. I expect that the airing of the Great White Expedition series will drum up the debate once, again, and it will likely bring up interesting arguments both for and against Domeier’s techniques.
Updated tracking data from Domeier’s tagging efforts can be viewed at MarineCSI.org (click on the small map image for a larger view).