A 17-foot, 2-inch great white shark weighing an astounding 3,541 pounds was captured Friday in the Northwest Atlantic by researchers with OCEARCH.
To put that in perspective, a Ford F-150 pickup is 17 feet, 5 inches long.
Expedition leader Chris Fischer told McClatchy News the shark is more than 50 years old and counts as the largest white shark the nonprofit has tagged in the Northwest Atlantic. It is also among the 12 biggest white sharks he has tagged off Africa and in the Pacific, he said.
“She is a very old creature, a proper Queen of the Ocean and a matriarch. She has all the scars, healed wounds and discolorations that tell a deep, rich story of her life going back years,” Fischer told McClatchy News.
“You feel different when you’re standing beside a shark of that size compared to the ones in the 2,000-pound range. It’s an emotional, humbling experience that can make you feel small. You feel insignificant standing next to such an ancient animal.”
The shark was caught off Nova Scotia and researchers rushed to collect data for 21 research projects, including an ultra sound, bacteria samples off her teeth and fecal samples to learn her diet. Blood, muscle and skin samples were also taken for medical research.
Researchers named the shark Nukumi (pronounced noo-goo-mee) in honor of a “legendary wise old grandmother figure of the Native American Mi’kmaq people,” according to a Facebook post.
She is bigger than average for female white sharks, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “The biggest great white sharks can reach up to 20 feet long, but most are smaller,” the museum reports. “The average female is 15-16 feet long, while males reach 11-13 feet.”
The shark was fitted with three tags, including one to record how deep she goes and another that will track her movements for the next five years. OCEARCH is currently tracking nearly 60 white sharks tagged in the Northwest Atlantic, and data has revealed they migrate down the East Coast, around Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico, Fischer said.
Nukumi is one of a half dozen white sharks tagged during the Nova Scotia expedition, which ends next week. Among the others was a 13.7-foot, 1,700-pound shark that is the largest male white shark the agency has tagged in the Northwest Atlantic, he said.
OCEARCH has been studying white sharks in the Northwest Atlantic since 2012, and among its goals is to learn where they mate and give birth. It is also studying the impact white sharks have on preventing other species, including seals and squids, from depleting fish stocks off the East Coast.
“She (Nukumi) was full of multiple seals and was round and robust,” Fischer said. “She had a lot of scratches on her face from seals that were fighting with their claws when she was eating them.”