environmental

Meet Nukumi, the great white shark ‘proper matriarch’ tagged off Nova Scotia, Canada

The U.S.-based shark research team Ocearch tagged their largest great white in the Northwest Atlantic so far and named her after a Mi’kmaw grandmother figure.

Nukumi, pronounced noo-goo-mee, was tagged on Friday morning near West Ironbound Island, south of Lunenburg, N.S.

She’s more than five metres long, weighs 1,606 kilograms and is believed to be in her 50s.

“She actually is likely a proper grandmother,” said Chris Fischer, the founding chairman and expedition leader of Ocearch.

Fischer said he was “awestruck” standing next to Nukumi. He described her as a “proper matriarch” and “queen of the ocean.”

He said it was “very interesting” to see a great white her size in this area. Great whites like Nukumi, he said, play an important role in protecting fish stocks for future generations.

“When you look at this particular area where we are right now, the great white are the guardians of all of your fish stocks, they’re preventing the seals from over-foraging and crashing the whole system,” Fischer said.

“We know when the white sharks are present, and where there are seals are as well, that the seals during that period of time will eat one-fourth as much each day than they would if the white shark was not present.”

He said Ocearch has tagged other great white sharks her size elsewhere in the world, but not in the northwest Atlantic.

“It’s very humbling,” he said. “They make you feel small and when you look at their body, they have all these blotches and scars and marks and wounds that have healed over, some many years ago, some recently.

“And you really look at the animal and you really see the story of their life unfolding.”

Fischer said it was important to give her a Mi’kmaw name. He said Ocearch met with members of the community before this latest research trip and were given a list of names.

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