A young great white shark that had been in captivity at the Monterey Bay Aquarium went missing on October 29, just four days after its release off the coast of Goleta. Data recovered from the transmitter on its dorsal fin determined that the shark died very shortly after its release. The shark itself has not been found, and the cause of death is still unclear.
According to media reports, the shark was captured in mid August for Project White Shark, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s effort to research, tag, and exhibit endangered great whites from the Pacific Coast. Project White Shark has tagged 47 juvenile and adult sharks since 2002 to monitor their movements and promote their preservation. Since 2004, five other sharks have been captured for exhibition and released after spending between 11 days and six months in captivity. Only one of those sharks was taken to the Goleta coast; the rest were released in Monterey Bay. Data from their transmitters indicated that they all survived their release, and only one died four months after it was caught in a fishing net.
Though the Monterey Bay Aquarium is currently reviewing its shark project’s procedures and protocol, team members are confident the young animal was fit to survive in the wild after captivity. It had reportedly gained nine pounds since its capture and navigated obstacles in its exhibit fairly well.
“Our husbandry team is unrivaled in its knowledge of young great white sharks,” said aquarium Managing Director Jim Hekkers in a press release. “This is a difficult time for all of us, and especially for the team members who devoted so much attention and care to an animal that had such a powerful impact on the attitudes of our visitors toward conservation of ocean wildlife.”
Project White Shark is expected to resume next summer, which could bring another great white to Monterey and, potentially, Goleta.