One in a Million

Russ Vetter, Leg III SHARK CRUISE. It is a big ocean and mako and blue sharks live in a big neighborhood. To date, all of the satellite position-only tags (SPOTs) that have been attached to the dorsal fins are reporting and can be viewed on the TOPP's data section. Two animals have already traveled from our study area off Southern California to halfway down the Baja peninsula, while others have milled around among the islands. Milling around for sharks means traveling 20 to 30 miles a day. Here's an image of their latest position. On the data section page, you can mouse over the dots to reveal when the shark was tagged and the most recent day its tag sent a signal to the satellite.

Few sharks get electronic tags, but all sharks get a yellow plastic “spaghetti” tag during our yearly cruises. While sport and commercial fishermen return tags, we have only directly recaptured one animal from a previous year’s cruise. We have never recaptured an animal from the same year. On Monday’s blog, I described the problem of ghost fishing gear entangling sharks and illustrated the problem with a photo of a female shark that was captured with netting that limited her swimming ability and cut through her skin. The fish was tagged, the line was cut free, and the fish released on July 15th. We wondered how the animal would fare, but had little hope of knowing for sure if the animal would survive.

Today, July 25, we recaptured the same animal in a different fishing location! Here's how she looks, in the photo below. While the cuts are deep, there is every indication that the wounds are healing well, and the animal is gaining strength. I don’t know what the scientific lesson is for us, but the lessen for her is clear: Stay away from fishing gear if you want to grow up! ABOARD THE DAVID STARR JORDAN, Off San Diego, California.