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White sharks: Neale

March 2001 (last update July 2001)

Where's Neale's fin?

The tag attached to Neale the white shark has not transmitted since 9 July and we have not had a position since 23 June. It appears, at this stage, that contact has been lost. Although disappointing for the research team, the project has been a remarkable success and has provided a new insight into the movement patterns of white sharks. The team now believe that the most likely reasons for the loss of contact are that either the tag has been damaged or the batteries are running down. The team will keep monitoring the satellite network for signals but it is becoming less likely that Neale will reappear as time goes on.

For his fans, here are some of Neale's statistics for the track:

  • Neale's tag transmitted 227 times on 71 different days over over a 129 day period.

  • The highest number of transmissions in a 24 h period was 17 and this occurred on 9-10 May when Neale was off north east Tasmania where seemed to be on the surface for most of the day.

  • The total distance over which Neale was tracked was 2,946km.

  • His journey took him from southeast Victoria, across Bass Strait to Tasmania's east coast, before returning to the Victorian coast and heading north, giving his last position close to the Solitary Islands near Coffs Harbour.

  • The longest period between transmissions was seven days and this occurred twice during the track.

  • Neale's swimming speed generally ranged between 1.2-3.3 km per hour and he was usually between 5 and15 km from shore when he surfaced.

At this stage we will not be providing further updates on Neale's web site.

Following Neale has become a popular exercise for people world-wide and the research team would like to thank all those who contacted them with comments and suggestions. The team hope to continue improving the tag and track further white sharks as part of their on-going research into white shark movement patterns in Australian waters.

About the project

Scientists at CSIRO Marine Research (CMR) are studying the movement patterns of white sharks in southern Australian waters using a variety of different tags and from the observations of both recreational and commercial fishers.

The scientists hope to discover:

  • whether white sharks mix between different areas within Australia and whether they leave Australian waters (for example do the white sharks off South Australia move and mix with white sharks in NSW);

  • where they go in different seasons and whether that changes between years;

  • what areas are important to them (such as feeding, breeding or nursery grounds);

  • what pathways they follow; and

  • how long they stay in and how frequently they visit particular places.

About Neale

Neale is a male white shark who is about 2.4 metres in length and 150 kg in weight. He is estimated to be four to five years old. Neale is still a juvenile and will not reach adulthood until he is about 3.6 m long and about eight or nine years old. He may one day grow to at least 5 m in length and 1250 kg (female white sharks grow somewhat bigger and may reach up to six or seven metres and 2000—3000 kg). White sharks of Neale’s size feed primarily on fish, small sharks and rays.

Why Neale?

Neale was named after Neale Blunden, the fisher who helped CSIRO scientists catch and tag the shark in coastal waters off Corner Inlet on the eastern side of Wilson's Promontory in Victoria. This is also the area where the same research team put a satellite transmitter on a small female white shark (nicknamed Heather) in March 2000. Information on Heather.

How was Neale tagged?

Neale was captured and tagged with an ARGOS satellite transmitter on 2 March, 2001. The process involved catching the shark on a baited line and carefully bringing him on-board the fishing vessel Sea Pride. Neale was placed on a foam mat on the deck while CMR scientists, Barry Bruce and John Stevens, removed the hook and attached the satellite tag. Neale was then returned to the water. The tagging operation took about six minutes. The tag is attached to Neale's dorsal fin (the large triangular fin on top of the body) and positioned so that the aerial will protrude from the water when Neale comes to the surface.

White sharks are fully protected in all Australian waters and tagging Neale required a special permit from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (Victoria).

Video of shark tagging courtesy Discovery Channel

How does the tag work?

The tag consists of an ARGOS satellite transmitter, long life batteries, aerial and a saltwater switch, all in a waterproof plastic pod. The pod was designed and made by engineers at CMR. It is streamlined in design and weighs very little in water. This is so it will not interfere with Neale's fin when he swims.

The transmitter sends a unique identifying code via radio waves to polar orbiting satellites that are fitted with ARGOS receivers. The signal from the tag is then sent to a receiving station in France where the tag's position on the earth's surface is calculated. CMR scientists receive the positions and plot Neale's track. Radio waves do not travel very well through seawater so the tag will only transmit to the satellites when the aerial is out of the water. This is why the scientists placed the tag on Neale's dorsal fin, and why there is not a position for Neale every day.

On average, the tag transmits Neale's position every two to three days. The accuracy of the position depends on how long the aerial is out of the water. The best positions can place Neale to within 150 m of where ever he goes in the world. The saltwater switch on the tag ensures that it does not transmit when underwater, thereby saving battery power.

Follow Neale's progress

Bookmark this site to follow Neale's track (below). Neale's track will be updated every week. The scientists hope that the tag will continue to transmit Neale's position for up to a year. The tag is, however, a delicate piece of equipment and can be damaged. When that happens it usually stops working. This is what the scientists believed happened to Heather's tag about seven weeks after she was released last year. Both Neale and Heather's tags will eventually fall off, so they will not carry them forever.

At this stage, we can not provide further updates on Neale's progress.

Neale's last position still hasn't changed but..... see below for details.

2 March - 31 May

21 June - 23 June

Period between tagging and last fix: 113 days
Distance travelled: 2946 km
Neale's average speed when travelling: 1.2 km/h Neale - stop teasing!The last day for which we have a position for Neale is still 23 June 2001. Once again we have heard from him this week (on Monday 9 July at 9:14pm), but there was no position.So what do we think? We are still hoping that Neale is spending less time at the surface, now that he is in the northern NSW - southern Queensland area, and that he will give a position soon. It is also possible that the tag has developed a problem - but let's hope not!Given his last position and assuming that he was still heading north at his last average swimming speed, then he should be somewhere between Coffs Harbour and Fraser Island. Small white sharks are known to occur in this area from July to December.

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