U.S.-based Ocearch, the data-collection group known for catching, gathering scientific samples and releasing great white sharks, nabbed the largest white shark of its 2020 Nova Scotia expedition near West Ironbound Island in Upper Kingsburg.
In fact, the 1,600-kilogram, five-metre-plus-size female is the biggest of any white shark caught during Ocearch's three expeditions to Bluenose country. The animal, named Nukumi, for the grandmother figure of the Mi'kmaq people, is estimated to be about 50 years of age and is the biggest white shark Ocearch has attached a tracking tag to in the northwest Atlantic.
"She's probably had 15 reproductive cycles, which means she's had maybe up to 100 babies, and some of those babies are now old enough to be making babies, and they're sexually mature," expedition leader and Ocearch founder Chris Fischer explained about Nukumi in a social media video posted online. Nukumi "would be a proper and true matriarch of the ocean; a grandmother of sharks."
The mega-shark allowed science experts aboard Ocearch's mobile research base, a re-configured 38-metre crab vessel, to compare blood samples and ultrasound images with the biology of previously tagged and studied animals, Fischer indicated.
Sharks sampled are ordinarily caught in a baited area, and guided to the vessel via a line from a smaller watercraft. Ocearch's ship captain Brett McBride leaps into the water near the vessel from the smaller watercraft to secure the shark to a platform extending from the larger boat. The animal is given life-sustaining attention as it remains on the platform for several minutes so tracking tags are attached and science samples are extracted. Once finished, the humans - with the exception of McBride - are off the platform, which is then lowered, putting the shark back in the ocean. Typically, McBride temporarily stays in the salt water long enough to direct the shark off the lift.
Ocearch's latest Nova Scotia expedition, which wrapped up in early October, was to further understand white shark biology, physiology, health, and behaviour. The details, Ocearch said, will be used to guide public safety and conservation policies. The work will be included in 21 science research projects.
No guests were permitted on board this year, because of public health rules during the coronavirus pandemic, unlike previous expeditions in 2018 and 2019 when LighthouseNOW spent a day with the crew.
Ocearch tagged eight white sharks during the 2020 expedition, of which seven were discovered in Lunenburg County area waters.
The six other sharks found off West Ironbound Island were Acadia (four-metre 725 kilogram subadult female), Hirtle (three-metre-plus subadult male), Mahone (771-kilogram male), Gladee (young female, about 181-kilograms), Rose (three-metre-plus 272-kilogram female) and Edithe (three-and-a-half-metre 537 kilogram female).
The sharks can be followed on Ocearch's free global tracker at www.ocearch.org on the internet.