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Summary of CMAR white shark tagging in Australian waters
CSIRO's insight into the movements of white sharks in Australian waters draws on data gathered by CMAR scientists from conventional, acoustic, archival, satellite and PAT tags since 1990 and from a gamefish tagging program that tagged white sharks from 1974 until they were protected in 1996.
* Tags did not transmit
A total of 480 white sharks have been tagged in Australian waters with conventional tags from January 1974 to November 2006, most in South Australian waters at the Neptune Islands and Dangerous Reef. Twelve have been recaptured over the same period.
Distances (minimum travelled) and periods between tagging and recapture ranged from 2-3800 km and 0-2200 days. Four sharks were recaptured further than 500 km from their point of tagging. Two of these were more than 3500 km away, including one female shark tagged at the Neptune Islands that was caught by a professional shark fisher in New Zealand.
Thirteen white sharks have been tagged with archival tags since August 1999. A 3 m female shark fitted with an archival tag at North Neptune Island, SA, on 21 August 1999 was captured on 2 November 1999 in the northern section of the Great Australian Bight, SA, some 600 km from where it was tagged. The tag was retrieved and yielded date, time, depth, water temperature and light levels every four minutes.
Eleven white sharks have been tagged with satellite tags since March 2000. CMAR scientists were the first in the world to use this technology on white sharks.
In March 2000 and 2001, two juvenile white sharks, a 1.8 m female named 'Heather' and a 2.4 m male named 'Neale', were captured near Corner Inlet off Victoria, and satellite tags were fitted to their dorsal fin.
For the first few weeks, Heather swam back and forth along a 75-100 km stretch of the Victorian coast centred on the region where it was tagged. She then swam north-east along the coast to Montague Island, NSW, until her signal was lost on 15 April. During the 49-day track, she covered some 880 km, transmitting 5-10 km from the coast, then moving to 20-30 km from the coast between Cape Howe and Bermagui.
For the first few weeks the male shark, Neale, also swam back and forth along a 75-100 km stretch of the Victorian coast centred on the region where it was tagged. On 19 April, he left the area, initially heading north-east on a similar track to the first shark, before turning offshore then heading south across Bass Strait. He travelled down the east coast of Tasmania to Bicheno then returned to Bass Strait and Corner Inlet before following an almost identical track to Heather along the coast to NSW.
Neale maintained his swimming path along the coast until the last position close to the Solitary Islands near Coffs Harbour on 23 June. He covered 2946 km during the 129-day track.
Not all of the satellite tags have worked successfully. Two tags fitted to white sharks in Western Australia in October 2003 failed to transmit. Tags are delicate electronic instruments and sometimes fail. This is one of the challenges facing scientists developing this technology.
The longest continuous satellite track of a white shark to date is for a 3.6 male nicknamed 'Bruce'. Bruce was tagged at North Neptune Island in March 2004 by CMAR scientists with help from staff of the Melbourne Aquarium. Bruce remained around the Neptunes for several days before heading rapidly east through Bass Strait, then north along the NSW and southern Queensland coasts. He spent most of the winter in offshore waters east of Rockhampton. In late October, Bruce returned south and last transmitted from eastern Bass Strait in early November. Bruce covered a distance in excess of 6000 km during this eight month period.
Pat tags have been attached to seven white sharks in Australian waters (five by CMAR scientists, two by other scientists). Data from three PAT tags deployed in Western Australia have shown a seasonal movement north along the Western Australian coast in spring and a return south in summer. These tags have also recorded dives by the sharks to nearly 600 m and movements offshore of several hundred kilometres.
For more information on tag types and technology, see tag types.