Monday, April 18, 2011

'Shark Man' roils waters with great white quest

Sharkmen! MSNBC

Great white sharks, the largest predatory fish in the ocean, are supreme fodder for headlines. Yet in recent weeks, it is the humans who study them that have grabbed the spotlight among a circle of bloggers and advocates for the iconic species.

One scientist and his methodology for studying the sharks have been at the center of the controversy: Michael Domeier, a marine biologist whose quest to study great white sharks and outfit them with satellite tags has been documented over several years and two seasons on theNational Geographic Channel's "Shark Men."

Domeier seeks to learn the mysterious migration habits of the sharks, specifically the females. Where they go on their two-year wanderings and where they give birth is a big unknown for researchers — and key information if the species is to be saved, some say. Domeier is the first scientist to attempt to track mature great white sharks with satellite tags that can deliver that information.

Around the world, shark populations suffered precipitous declines in recent years, and although much is unknown about great white sharks' population status, they are considered a vulnerable species.

In order to gather the data he's after, Domeier uses blunted hooks to bring a shark alongside a boat, then lifts the fish out of the water for 15 to 20 minutes. A hose is put in the shark's mouth to allow it to breath, a wet towel is placed over the eyes to calm it, and Domeier gets to work, taking blood samples, checking the sex of the shark, and attaching a satellite tag to the shark's dorsal fin.

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