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Expedition Great White- The Good, The Bad and The Fishy!

Sooo I was watching this the other night with my gf (she had the remote; we would have watched the L Word but that's too girly for her >>), and after 10 minutes into the program I was really battling with myself.  Now if you've never seen Expedition Great White, I'd say watch it first before making an assumption because it's...kinda evil; kinda good; kinda screwing with my feelings!  But then I'm an aquatic enthusiast, I love my fishies! xD

Anyway, EGW is about a team of great white shark enthusiasts that travel to GW hot spots to try and learn more about their behaviors, breeding, spawning and eating habits.  Sounds pretty keen, eh?  Well then cames the part on how they perform their research.  This is where I went from "Cool, learn about these gorgeous and mysterious creatures!" to " that really necessary?".  I mean I'm not that "vegan" in mindset, as I believe in everyone has their own opinions on everything, but I really didn't see how they weren't harming these sharks in some way.

There is a GW biologist on board the ship that really has this passion for the sharks, and I believe he honestly wants to help preserve their species so our future generations to come can see them get off the endangered list, thrive and understand them better.  However, this is how they get closer to these giants; First they bait a massive hook (big as the one guy's head I swear!) and toss it out on a 5,000lbs strong line.  They attach buoys to the line (3-5) and wait for one of the sharks to take the bait.  Then they let the animal drag their fishing boat around, or struggle at the end of the line, until it tires out.  After which they pull it in and remove the buoys only to place a slider or those climbing hooks onto the buoys and throw them back.  This way all the weight of the buoys goes right down into the shark's face so it pretty much can't do anything but be dragged along onto what they call a cradle.

This cradle is pretty much a wooden deck with a swing gate on the one end to stop the shark from being dragged off the other side, and it is lifted and lowered from the mothership (which is a larger vessel, not the fishing boats they catch the sharks from) by hydraulics.  As they drag the shark back to the mothership, which can easily be a mile or two away from the spot they hooked the shark, they line the GW up and drag it over the cradle which is submerged in water until the animal is laid out on the cradle.  Then they quickly hoist the cradle into the air so they can do their work.

Now is where it kinda gets iffy for me; although they quickly run a hose into the shark's mouth to pump water over the gills, they begin to document the fish they have onboard by writing down it's gender, cataloging the markings, drawing blood if they can find the artery leading into the tail and measuring the length of the shark.  This they stress must all be done within a 20 minute time frame before any harm is brought to the fish.  But with the sharking being out of it's natural element, isn't that already harming the creature?  Not to mention the massive hook now lodged almost down it's throat (I've been raised in an angling family, I've seen it happen!).  Sharks aren't like a catfish or gar fish that actually have rather sensitive mouths; a shark is going to gulp their prey before chewing it, making the hook get set up pretty well.  It's very much like how a bass takes a bait.

Another thing that surprised me was how they tagged these sharks.  Using a powerdrill they attatch a 6 year transmitting device onto the top of the shark's dorsal fin.  This is so everytime that shark's doral fin comes out of the water the transmitter begins to send signals off to any satellites that are orbiting at that time in the vicinity.  I mean that's great they can track these creatures and we can begin to get to understand them better, but is using a powerdrill to puncture four holes into the shark's dorsal fin, then fasten it with four screws and bolts necessary?  At one point the biologist even said, "We assume this way of attatching the transmitter doesn't hurt the shark, however we can't come out and ask it if it's feeling any pain.".  Is taking that chances?  To me, yeah!  Poor'd be like stapling a GPS to my ass if you ask me.

They then attatch a 500 to 600 day transmitter to the shark as well, which eventually falls off and can be retrieved by the scientists to collect it's findings.  This transmitter is placed right before the second dorsal fin, and is like a huge needle that is hammered into place by a rubber mallet.  Ouch!  I've whacked myself plenty of times with those suckers, I couldn't begin to imagine doing it with a huge needle at the end!  And what kills me the most is when they are returning the shark back to sea after 15 or so minutes, some of them flip over onto their back and go into a paralyzing state of sleep and can die if not righted quickly enough.  Sure the people leap into action to keep that from happening, but damn!

So in wrapping this up, I want to hear other members' opinions on this subject.  Do you think what these people are doing for "science" is necessary for the survival of the great white shark species?  Or do you think they could come up with gentler techniques to track, document and educate us on the great white shark?  I know they aren't as bad as the poachers who hunt these sharks for sport or consumption, but I just can't shake the feeling like what they're do to get their research is truely ethical.  This method has to cause some type of trauma to the fish that lays out on the cradle like an experiment.  Oh wait...I guess it kinda is.

No entity goes through life without trauma.  What other methods do you suggest?


Without having an in-depth knowledge of the great white shark, it would be hard to suggest any other techniques to attatching a transmitter.  In honesty we don't know these creatures the way a shark biologist does, though if I were to begin researching them extensively I'm sure in a few years I could come up with a better device.  But then that leaves the method of catching the shark to attatch said device to the shark, which would have to be once again analyzed and deemed safe.  And that right there is my point of the question; Is capturing these sharks to document them so we can learn to understand their behaviors to better protect them a good idea or an idea we need to first rationalize before just diving in and yanking them out of the water even for about 20 minutes?

In a scientfic sense, yes we need to further expand our knowledge of these beasts and taking pictures and watching them from a diving cage is less than ideal than getting right up to them.  But in the sense of "fishing" these creatures and risking the chance of causing more damage than good, is it best we not know about them more and try to educate people in a more dimmed light?  I still feel it's too extreme to use such a harsh way of bringing them to us just so we can gain more knowledge of them, but we can't deny the fact that this just might save them from future generations that could cause their species extinction due to lack of understanding.  It's a very touchy subject, and I am curious to see how people here feel about it.  I've already asked a few non-vegans and even some anglers and they pretty much felt this; If it saves the species in the future then it's worth it.

That's why I'm on the fence; I want to see the species thrive, but I don't want us to cause any bodily hard to an individual just in the name of science and protecting their kind.


I understand what you're saying, I think.  If your concern is mainly about stress, I doubt that's the most stressful 20 minutes of their life.  I can't get too worked up over inconveniencing an individual to protect a population.


Why can't they tag them like they do domestic cats? The power drill does sound pretty intense, although maybe comparable to having one's cartilage pierced.


I assume they are guessing the powerdrill is comparable to having our ears pierced, but they don't know.  It's pretty intense to watch, I'll have to see if they have the clip on youtube and link back.  Even my meat-loving brother said that was cruel.  I'm not sure if the domestic cat tagging system would work on a shark, but it would be better than 4 huge bolts screwed into the dorsalfin.

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