When $cience Biofouls
October 29th, 2009, the white shark Junior was captured at the Farallon Islands, brought aboard a modified crabbing vessel, and outfitted with several tracking devices, including a four bolt SPOT tag. On October 12th of 2010 Junior was seen with his new tag looking terrible. Earlier that season a call to Doctor Domeier from a photographer at the islands confirmed that the tag had “biofouled” and ceased to emit data. However, Marine CSI, the organization that retained the rights to the data from the tag proceeded to post migration data claiming that Junior had completed another round trip journey to the White Shark Cafe and back over the following season. How was the data from this journey established if the SPOT tag failed a season earlier? Presumably this was done with the data still being emitted from other tracking devices that were also attached to the shark…
So this. The data published doesn’t offer up the fact that it was achieved with data other than the SPOT tag. Also, the fact that the SPOT tag fouled after one year (or less) isn’t exactly information that is easy to find.
Again, so what?
The point is that unless you happen to be an individual who looks deeply into the backstory of such issues you are likely to be left with the idea that Junior is alive and well and that the SPOT tag achieved its purpose of providing valuable data. The TV show being filmed aboard the boat at the time of Junior’s tagging even amended it’s ending of the episode to include the round trip migration data and imply that Junior was alive and well and that the experience was just like going to the dentist (thanks for that bit of brilliance Maria Brown). What you wouldn’t know is the following:
It is difficult to prove whether a tagged shark is dead or not unless its body is found or if the mortality is caught on video (as happened in the next season with the OCEARCH team in South Africa). So, since Junior didn’t die on camera and his continued existence can’t be proven or denied, let’s shift topics slightly and go back to the data.
The inherent risk of injury to an animal when it is hooked in the mouth, dragged until it has given up the fight, then removed from the water for upwards of 20 minutes speaks for itself. But there is an argument that justifies such a risk; the importance of the data received from the tag that “had to be applied with the shark out of the water”. OK, so let’s examine this important data.
My answer (surprise, surprise) is money. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you like, but It’s not very far fetched when you consider the following. Research costs money. Most researchers don’t have a lot of funding. The researchers who went on the MV OCEARCH all stated that they needed funding dollars for the work they were trying to do and received that funding as a result of their partnership with OCEARCH. Research is a career, and like any other industry there is a certain amount of competition involved, sometimes that means pushing the envelope.
And of course, there's the television...
TV shows cost money to make and distribute so if we’re talking dollars and ratings, answer this question; In this day and age which of the following shows is going to get more ratings from today’s short attention-spanned reality-TV addicted masses? The show that hunts white sharks with a hook and line, fights them to exhaustion, then lifts them out of the water for the whole world to see? Or the show where the shark swims by mostly under the surface, and a tag quickly is attached with a pole? Over an hour of drama with the first option compared to less than a few seconds of action in the second option (a few seconds during which the shark can barely be seen I might add). The days of a syndicated television show seems to be on hold for OCEARCH, but the funny thing is that they are on TV more than ever! And you better believe most of the media buzz centers on the "money shot" of a 3,000 + pound ultimate predator lying on the deck of the boat.
Proceed to mapping comparisons in South Africa and Australia.
Proceed to mapping comparisons in the Atlantic
Articles from the 2009 incident - http://iteamblog.abc7news.com/2011/05/controversial-shark-researcher-wants-4-year-permit.html
#ocearch #mcsi #domeier #tagging #sharktagging #science #biofoul #schiffman #fischer #mcbride #junior #farallones #fatality #spot #spottag #tag
Debra Canabal of Epic Diving in the WSV hoodie. Get yours!
About the Author
Skyler Thomas is the primary blog contributor, cinematographer, and lead editor at White Shark Video.