Tags: joan of shark | australia | beach | closed

'Joan of Shark' Forces Popular Australian Beach to Close (Video)

By Nick Sanchez   |   Friday, 18 Apr 2014 09:13 AM

"Joan of Shark," a massive, 16-foot-long great white shark that resides off the coast of Australia, has forced the country's popular Ellen Cove Beach to close, due to the predator's regular visits.

According to The Telegraph U.K., Joan seems to have been attracted to a distressed humpback whale that beached and later died. Even after its removal, however, the great white stuck close to shore.

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"Obviously, with that whale incident and because of the distress signals that it would have sent out, it would have attracted sharks and they will probably frequent the beach for the next few days," Martin Kleeman, a spokesman for the state department of fisheries, said. 

Scientists knew of Joan's arrival because of their tagging efforts — the result of seven separate and fatal shark attacks off the coast of Western Australia over the past four years.

Three weeks ago, they fired an electronic device into the shark's flesh.

Because Joan stuck around, however, researchers decided to upgrade the transmitter, which required a temporary capture. The team motored out to sea and used ropes to capture the 1.6 ton, 30-year-old shark by hand. Photos the temporary capture spread on social media websites, fascinating users around the world. Kleeman said it was "potentially a world first" for a shark of that size.

Using the ropes to tip the shark on its back, he explained, puts it in a temporary sleep known as "tonic immobility," allowing the team to spend a bit more time fitting a more sophisticated electronic tag into its stomach.

The new tag communicates with more than 300 monitors installed on the sea floor and via satellite. Two weeks after installing the tags, authorities learned of Joan's approach in time for them to evacuate the beach and make announcements to the larger community through social media.

"For the next 10 years, we'll be able to keep a track of her movements, which is going to open up a whole new world," Kleeman said. "We'll have a better understanding of the large-scale movements of white sharks."

Best of all, the new tagging solution and advance approach warnings seem to have temporarily halted a debate about culling the shark populations for fear of more human deaths.

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