Shark Men: Biggest and Baddest, is a new TV show set to premier on National Geographic Channel tomorrow night, which chronicles the work of a team of scientists and professional fishermen who go after great whites in an effort to figure out where the mysterious giants breed and give birth.
During one of their stints in the Pacific Ocean, the team caught what’s been attested to be the biggest great white shark so far caught. The capture was made off Mexico’s Guadalupe Island in the fall of 2009, as the crew battled to get the great white predator on the deck, where they measured and weighed it, while trying to keep it alive at the same time.
The specimen was a male measuring 7.9-foot-long (5.5-meter-long), which breaks the team’s previous record of 16.8 feet (5.1 meters), set when they caught a female great white named Kimel. The article’s center piece has a name as well – Apache, after the dog of Brett McBride, boat captain on the National Geographic Channel show Shark Men.
The capture was no trip down the park, as the two-ton Apache put up quite a fight – at one point breaking free from his barbless hook, said expedition leader Chris Fischer.
“The battle with Apache was like nothing we’ve ever dealt with,” Fischer said.
“He was all scarred up and had big marks all over him—you could tell he was just a bad-ass shark,” Fischer said.
“It was so impressive and so humbling to be near him.”
Once on board, scientists tagged the shark with a satellite tracking system and took a blood sample, before releasing him back into the wild.
Biggest white shark is not that big
What’s remarkable is that most of the marine scientists around the world aren’t too impressed by the find. When great white sharks are concerned, the female is generally larger than the male, because they need more girth to carry their young. So, the probability of some other great white of larger dimensions swimming freely through the ocean is very big.
“That is one big shark, [but] I have no doubt that this isn’t the largest white shark in the wild,” John O’Sullivan, head of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s White Shark Program, said by email.
Shark expert Kenneth J. Goldman added, “I don’t see anything overtly magnificent about it being so large. It’s just another adult male they’ve tagged.”
Size isn’t important for researchers
Size apart, Apache will prove to be a valuable asset for researchers towards their goal of understanding great white shark behavior. The first thing they’re trying to find out is how great whites plot their migration paths, still very vaguely known. One theory says great whites gather in specific spots near the coasts—including the Guadalupe Island site— and then travel to a feeding spot in the middle of the ocean to feed. The animals often return to the same aggregation sites after feeding.
Overall, tagging sharks to figure out where they migrate and congregate may help conservationists protect the species, Fischer added. Great whites are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Meanwhile, Apache lives on, he said, as a “giant male shark out there doing his great white thing.”
Shark Men—Biggest and Baddest premieres at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday, May 8, on the National Geographic Channel.
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.