OCEARCH marked Nukumi, a 1
The rumor spread quickly about Nukumi, a female great white shark the size of a mammoth, which was marked on October 2 when it swam off the south coast of Nova Scotia.
Pronounced “noo-goo-mee,” she may be swimming on the shores of New Jersey later this year if she migrates to warmer, southern waters.
Researchers say she is over 50 years old and has been able to give birth to about 100 babies in her lifetime. For now, much remains to be learned about the breeding cycle of great white sharks.
Its huge size, 17 feet 2 inches and 3,541 pounds, makes it one of the largest of the world’s top predators.
Its name refers to the wise old grandmother of the same name, who is spoken in legends by the Mi’kmaq Indians, a culture that has deep roots in the Canadian maritime provinces.
“That name just popped up with us. An appropriate name, she’s a matriarch,” said Chris Fisher, head of the OCEARCH expedition and founder.
Her legacy could be hundreds of big ones, he said.
OCEARCH is the non-profit research group that marks Nukumi. The group, which began operations in 2007, is placing satellite markers to track great white sharks to gather information about the life cycle of the animal.
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The group also takes biological samples, such as bacteria found in the mouths of sharks, that can help treat bite victims, for example.
Fisher said it was a “humiliating experience” to be face to face with Nukumi. They captured her when she was about a mile off the coast of Lunenburg, a port city in Nova Scotia.
She was one of eight sharks tagged by OCEARCH during a month-long expedition to Nova Scotia that ended on October 6.
“When you deal with an animal of that size, it hits you how small you are,” Fisher said.
Fisher said she has been marked by lifelong battles in the ocean. He observes scars on her face and abdomen, which he says are most likely from fights with seals and giving birth to young.
At about 50, she also slipped past fishermen in the 1970s and 1980s, when catching great white sharks was considered a bravado and there was no protection for fish. They are now illegal to catch in the United States
“She went through all the pressure we put on them. She won the battle for natural selection. We need more of her genetics to pass on,” Fisher said.
It is the largest great white shark that OCEARCH has marked in the Northwest Atlantic. It is slightly larger than Mary Lee, a great white shark that was 16 feet and 3,456 pounds long when it was tagged in 2012 near Cape Cod. Her label fell silent in 2017 when she was near Beach Haven.
Nukumi also wears a satellite marker on her dorsal fin that tracks her movements in real time. Its location is captured by a satellite when its dorsal fin floats above the water long enough to register a ping.
Several OCEARCH great white sharks have already visited the coast of New Jersey this fall. The newest was Miss May, a 10-foot-tall woman who pinged on Sunday while away from the banks of the Toms River.
According to information provided by a satellite, Nukumi has still been outside Nova Scotia since Sunday.
When Jersey-born Shore Dan Radel doesn’t break the news, you can find him in the college classroom where he is a history professor. Reach it @danielradelapp; 732-643-4072; email@example.com.
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