Tagged white shark

What happened to the legendary great white shark, Cal Ripfin?

Now, that August has arrived it’s about that time of year when great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) begin to arrive at Mexico’s Isla de Guadalupe Biosphere Reserve. The island is regarded as one of the best places on Earth to view white sharks in their natural habitat. However, it’s one shark in particular that many are holding out hopes to see return.

Cal Ripfin great white shark
Cal Ripfin (aka Shredder) was one of the most well-known great white sharks at Guadalupe prior to his disappearance following the 2011 season.

From 2001 to 2011, Cal Ripfin (aka Shredder) was one of the most well-known great white sharks to visit Mexico’s Isla de Guadalupe. Easily recognized by an injury to his dorsal fin that occurred sometime between the 2004 and 2005 season, Cal was a “fan favorite” of divers and photographers due to his inquisitive and curious nature. He would often swim right up the cameras as if he was posing for a photo opportunity.

White sharks gather at Guadalupe in the later months of the year, with the prime season considered to be between August and November. Cal consistently visited Guadalupe every season for 10 years straight, and his arrival was generally quite predictable. In 2009, he was absent early on in the season, which caused a bit of concern among researchers and divers, but he eventually showed up about midway through the season. However, after failing to be seen during the 2012 season, concerns once again rose for the well-being of Guadalupe’s favorite shark. When 2013 and 2014 passed by without any sighting of Cal Ripfin, hopes of his return were dampened even further.

great white shark close-up
Cal Ripfin (aka Shredder) wasn’t shy about swimming right up to the camera, which often created great opportunities for close-up shots.

While migratory tracking data is limited among Guadalupe white sharks, the available data indicates that SPOT tagged males follow a somewhat predictable pattern each year. The data shows males traveling to Guadalupe in the latter half of a year, and spending the rest of their time in the Shared Offshore Foraging Area (SOFA) (aka “the White Shark Cafe”), a remote area in the mid-Pacific. If the tracking data available is representative of the migratory behavior of all male Guadalupe white sharks, it does not bode well for Cal Ripfin, given his 3-year absence.

Cal Ripfin great white shark
The question of why this male great white shark suddenly stopped returning to Guadalupe is one that will likely go unanswered, unfortunately.

So, what could have happened to him? Did he change his migratory routine? Did he die of natural causes, fall prey to another predator, or end up in a fishing net? At this point, it seems likely that his fate will always remain a mystery.

Somehow, I still have a tiny glimmer of hope that he’s still out there, but with each year that glimmer gets a little more faint.

Study indicates great white sharks grow and mature slowly

great white shark head-on image
A recent study indicates great white sharks growth rates are much slower than previously thought.

Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) grow and reach sexual maturity at much slower rates than previously believed, according to a press release from NOAA Fisheries. A study completed in 2014 and published online last month in the journal of Marine & Freshwater Research used carbon-14 dating and vertebral band pair counts of 81 white shark specimens, collected in the western North Atlantic Ocean, to develop a growth curve for the species. According to the results, female white sharks reach sexual maturity at approximately 33 years of age, while males reach maturity at approximately 26 years. Additionally, the results of the study indicate that the life-span of white sharks could exceed 70 years, which places them among one of the longest living species of fish.

The latest findings on the growth rates and life-span of white sharks provides important information for conservation efforts of the species. Low reproduction rates coupled with slow growth and maturation rates could potentially put the species at greater risk for population decline, since losses in populations are not quickly replaced. Great white sharks are a protected species in U.S. waters and legally must be released live, if captured. However, individual white sharks are sometimes killed as a result of incidental by-catch from commercial fisheries, so it is important that these types of incidents be managed to protect the welfare of white shark populations, as a whole.

For more information, check out NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center press release,

“White Sharks Grow More Slowly and Mature Much Later Than Previously Thought,”

and the Marine and Freshwater Research journal article,

“Age and growth of the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, in the western North Atlantic Ocean.”

Tagged great white shark reports in from South Carolina coast

Tracking data from SPOT tags report the whereabouts of tagged white sharks.

An OCEARCH tagged white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) reported in off the coast of South Carolina, east of Charleston last week. The shark, nicknamed “Mary Lee,” is an adult female measuring 16′ (5m) in length. She was originally tagged by the OCEARCH team in September off of Cape Cod. The SPOT (Smart Position and Temperature) tags report data when a tagged shark surfaces. According to tracking data, Mary Lee has been spending her time in coastal waters off of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina coast over the past month.

You can follow OCEARCH’s tagged sharks at their Global Shark Tracker page.

Interview with stand-up paddle-boarder from white shark photo

San Diego’s CBS 8 recently interviewed Buck Elsmore, a stand-up paddle-boarder who was featured in a photo with the dorsal fin of white shark (Carcharodon carcharias). The photo was taken last fall off Encinitas’ Moonlight Beach.

Elsemore told Channel 8 that the shark swam near him at the surface for around a minute before descending back to deeper water.