Big Island researcher tagging tiger sharks - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Big Island researcher tagging tiger sharks

Michael Domeier Michael Domeier

A Big Island researcher is catching tiger sharks for science. Michael Domeier is carefully putting satellite tracking devices on them to track their movement. He planned the tiger shark expedition months ago, before the recent shark attacks in Hawaii.

"I think time will tell whether that's just an anomalous spike and a coincidence, or if it is a real concern," said Domeier, president of the Marine Conservation Science Institute.

The Waikoloa resident is focusing on the migratory behavior around the Big Island. He tagged his first tiger shark for the study last week near Honokohau Harbor along the Kona coast. Domeier wonders if the sport fishing spot is attracting sharks and interrupting their normal patterns. He said initially, some residents had reservations about his project, but now they've become more accepting of his research.

"There's also a sensitivity to the whole aumakua thing with Native Hawaiians so I was careful to hire a Native Hawaiian crew who was really good at communicating what we were trying to do to everyone in the area," Domeier explained.

His crew caught a female shark measuring 13-feet with an estimated weight of nearly 1,400 pounds. Domeier said the aggressive animal straightened two smaller hooks before coming back a third time. They gave her the name "Blue Moon."

"Getting her tied up alongside the boat is the hardest part, getting a tail rope on. Once the tail rope is on and her head is secured then we can go ahead and tag," said Domeier.

Domeier is using barbless hooks and special gear to minimize the impact. He said a representative from the Department of Land and Natural Resources was on the boat with them during their outings. The crew put a satellite tracking device on Blue Moon's dorsal fin. Domeier even jumped into the water to get an accurate measurement of the shark's girth.

"She was still tied up on both ends but then we let her go while I was still in the water and she did take a bit of turn towards me so I had to use the top of her head and back as a step to get back in the boat," explained Domeier. "The more we learn about the sharks, maybe the fear will be turned into fascination."

Domeier has also studied great white sharks. He was featured in the "Shark Week" series on the Discovery Channel this summer.

Domeier hopes to eventually tag a dozen tiger sharks for his study. You can track Blue Moon through his group's Expedition White Shark app which is available through Apple's iTunes store. He said it can sometimes take weeks to get an updated position since the animal needs to be at the surface for about 3 minutes.


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