I had an interesting conversation with Nicole Nasby Lucas of the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research yesterday. Ms. Lucas and PIER co-founder Michael Domeier PhD have been conducting a capture/recapture study on great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) at Guadalupe Island, Mexico, building a database of identification photos and video of white sharks that inhabit the island. To date PIER has 73 individual sharks in their database, and the count increases each season. PIER also places a small number of satellite tags on Guadalupe white sharks to learn where they are going once they leave the island. Interestingly, some of the sharks tagged at Guadalupe Island swim all the way to the Hawaiian islands, including two of the sharks tagged during the most recent season. By observing the white sharks in this way, the PIER researchers are able to collect evidence about how the sharks utilize the island habitat and their migrations to and from the island.
I have had the good fortune of naming five of the PIER sharks by virtue of being the first photographer to capture each of them on film. The three females are named after my two daughters and my mother (you don’t think I am stupid enough to name one after my wife do you?). The two males are named after the notorious bachelors on Sex in the City: Big and The Russian.
In this case Ms. Lucas was able to link the right side and left side photographs by finding a common element between them: a notched tip on the left side ventral fin. Here she is, Guadalupe Island great white shark #57, “Leslie”:
For more information about PIER’s white shark research at Guadalupe Island, how the identification process works and what scientific publications have resulted from the study, visit the PIER website and see the online catalog.