Unlikely landing for white shark tag
For the first time since we started tagging juvenile white sharks in southern California more than a decade ago, we’ve retrieved one of the tags in Monterey Bay.
The tag spent 10 months on a young shark before it popped free over Labor Day weekend and washed ashore just north of the Pajaro River, in Santa Cruz County. Several aquarium staff members went beachcombing and found the data-rich tag on Sunday, near the high tide line.
The tag showed up in an area where a number of young white sharks have been spotted in recent weeks. Several were featured on Big Blue Live when they were caught on camera by airborne film crews. Our white shark research scientist Sal Jorgensen photographed the sharks this week as well.
Our research team speculates that unseasonably warm sea temperatures drew the young sharks far north of their usual haunts off southern California and the Baja Peninsula.
The shark was collected and tagged on November 6, 2014 in Santa Monica Bay by our research partners with the Southern California Marine Institute and the California State University Long Beach Shark Lab. At the time, it was about 6.5 feet in length and weighed 146 pounds. Based on its size, they estimated it to be just over a year old.
No other juvenile white shark has carried a data tag this long, so our white shark team is eager to download the information stored on the tag. They’ll learn where the shark journeyed over the past 10 months, and the water temperatures it favored.
We and our colleagues have tagged 93 sharks since we began tagging juveniles in 2002. Data from the tagged animals show a seasonal migration pattern between southern California and Mexico, with the sharks appearing to seek out warmer waters.
This is the first time young white sharks have been seen in such numbers in Monterey Bay since the last El Niño event in 1997.
Here’s a video showing some of the young white sharks in the bay’s warmer waters this summer.