Developing

Monster Great White Shark as Big as a Bus Tagged by Australian Researchers

One of the world's biggest great white sharks has been tagged off the coast of Western Australia.

Measuring 5.3 metres, or 17.3ft, the great white is the largest shark to have been internally tagged by researchers in Australia, and is potentially the biggest in the world.

The female great white is estimated to weigh 1.6 tonnes and was tagged off King George Sound. She had caused beach closures last week after being spotted off the coast of Ellen Cove, WAtoday.com.au reports.

The shark was measured at 5.04m to the fork in its tail, meaning she likely had an overall length of 5.3m. This is roughly equivalent to a 14-seater minibus. 

Three staff from the Department of Fisheries spent two-and-a-half hours subduing the shark, which was eventually caught close to Mistaken Island in water just 15m deep. The shark was caught with a 14-16mm rope attached to a 3mm cable and a small hook.

After she calmed down, Fisheries staff attached three ropes around her to roll her upside down, when she went into a state of "tonic immobility". They then went about making a small incision in her stomach to insert the tag, which will help monitor her movements for the next 10 years. In total, the process took about five minutes.

The shark is estimated to be over 30 years old, as female great whites do not mature until they are between 15 and 20 years old. "It is the first one we have caught of breeding size," Mark Kleeman, Shark Monitoring Network project manager said. "It had signs of mating scars, with bites down one side."

He said said her size was unprecedented: "This is very exciting and potentially a world first. It is something we have been striving for and it is great to prove we can handle an animal of that size.

"The main thing is that tracking larger animals opens up a whole new world. Lots of juveniles have been tagged, but to have a fully-mature female and get 10 years of data out of it is a big thing for us.

"We are excited by the potential of what this shark can give us."

The shark has stayed in King George Sound, data from the tag showed: "We will be able to see where it is travelling and how often. We will get a good picture of the movements of this particular animal.

"Over time we will be able to build the data and then we can see if there are any patterns forming, which is a great start for understanding more about them."

While a giant, the shark is not the biggest great white to be caught. According to National Geographic, the biggest was 5.9m (19.6ft) and was caught at Ledge Point, Australia, in 1984.