Shark High Five?

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  • Author: D.O. Gordon
  • Press: Shark Magazine
  • Date: Saturday, 13 June 2015

Instead of a cute kitten chasing its tail video making the Internet rounds, it’s an enormous great white shark apparently high-fiving a dive master. The dive master, Joel Ibarra, was in a shark cage off of his ecotourism boat near Mexico when the 22 foot long shark came nice and close.

This great white is actually one of the largest ever seen. Nicknamed Deep Blue, the enormous female swam close to Ibarra when he noted the large gash on her side. Deep Blue is so big, making quick turns to avoid the sharp corners and edges of the shark cage is difficult. What was caught on film wasn’t a high-five, it was the dive master attempting to guide the shark away from the cage and further harm.

Mauricio Hoyos Padilla is a researcher who studies sharks and other marine wildlife for a non-profit organization. He was the first to see Deep Blue as he studies the shark activity off of Guadalupe Island, off the coast of Mexico. He has been studying shark behavior for more than 13 years.

Deep Blue appears to have an unusually distended midsection because she is likely pregnant, say researchers. Sharks tend to migrate to an area near Guadalupe Island for breeding. The pregnant female sharks generally stay in the area from spring until November or December, when elephant seals arrive. These seals are like meal-delivery for the pregnant sharks. Female sharks can ambush seals up to 100 meters deep in the ocean. A great white shark pregnancy is estimated to last 18 months to two years. The process has never been fully witnessed, so the exact length of time is unknown.

Deep Blue is not unknown to researchers or to many who follow the Discovery Channel. Footage of her for one of the Shark Week programs was recorded last year as they followed her after tagging her with a transponder. In the video, she appears to be longer than the boat that is tracking her.

Her age is estimated to be more than 50 years old based on her 22 foot-long size. She was pregnant during the Discovery filming and is still pregnant in this latest siting. Might she give birth soon? The oldest recorded great white shark was a male that was 73 years old and 16.2 feet long.

Great white sharks are vulnerable. This is a label given by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature indicating that they are have a high risk of extinction.  The biggest threat to them is humans. Commercial and sport fishing is one threat. Revenge killing for sharks involved in attacks is another. Habitat degradation, caused by construction and other sources is also a problem.

Great whites, especially those as large as Deep Blue, appear frightening. However, if statistics are examined, in 2010 there were 32 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide. Also in 2010, humans killed 97 million sharks. Who is actually the bigger danger here?

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