By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Scientists recently tagged one of the largest great white sharks ever in Western Australia, nicknamed “Joan of Shark” after the famous 15th century French warrior woman Joan of Arc. The tag will allow Australian officials to clear beaches when she’s near, and protect the shark herself in the process.
While great whites can measure over 20 feet and weigh more than 7,000 pounds, Joan’s monstrous 16-foot and 3,600-pound frame still makes her one of the largest in the world. She does take home the record, though, for biggest great white ever implanted with an electronic-tracking tag in Australia. Scientists can now closely monitor her using a network of satellites and about 300 sensors at the bottom of the ocean floor. Since great whites swim at an impressive 15 mph, keeping track of the tag will ensure the safety of beachgoers.
The implant itself is designed to last at least 10 years, so researchers have a solid cushion of time before they need to replace it. The device is being used in place of shark culling, which is the controversial practice of capturing sharks close to the beach and killing them off. Australians have spoken out strongly against what they feel is inhuman and irrational treatment of great whites, especially since it can disrupt the balance of the ocean’s ecosystem.
Sharks are apex predators, meaning they sit comfortably at the top of the food chain. The large creatures hunt prey like fish, tuna, sea lions, and sea turtles, which keeps the critter populations from getting too out of control. If there aren’t any sharks around to prevent overcrowding in the ocean, then there will be too many creatures, too little food, and soon everyone would die.
Sharks are already endangered, so electronic tagging is a welcome technique over brutal culling. The misunderstood creatures are actually more gentle than you might think.
Featured image courtesy of Hermanus Backpackers on Wikipedia. Image of Joan of Shark courtesy of Department of Fisheries Western Australia.
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