Ocean researchers encountered marine royalty on a tracking and tagging expedition off the coast of Nova Scotia: a great white shark thought to be around half a century old.
Her age and size have earned her the moniker “Queen of the Ocean.”
The team with marine research nonprofit OCEARCH claimed in an Oct. 2 Facebook post that the 3,541-pound (approx. 1,606-kilogram) 17-foot-long mature female is by far the largest shark they have sampled in the Northwest Atlantic to date.
The group is tagging and sampling sharks with the aim of learning more about these majestic predators.
“We named her ‘Nukumi,’ pronounced noo-goo-mee,” OCEARCH explained, “for the legendary wise old grandmother figure of the Native American Mi’kmaq people, [a] culture that has deep roots in Canadian Maritime provinces.”
The marine matriarch, they claimed, will “share her wisdom with us for years to come,” alongside helping balance fish stocks in the Northwest Atlantic and lending fresh insight into complex ocean ecosystems.
OCEARCH expedition leader Chris Fischer hailed Nukumi a “proper queen of the ocean,” adding that it was humbling to stand beside her.
“She’s probably 50 years old,” Fischer explained in a Facebook video log, “and certainly her first litters of pups she would have been having 30 years ago are also making babies.
“When you look at all the healed-over scars and blotches and things that are on her skin, you’re really looking at the story of her life,” he reflected, “and it makes you feel really insignificant.”
Great white sharks are the world’s largest predatory fish, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Despite their capacity to devour live prey whole, and the fearsome reputation that precedes them, great whites are decreasing in number and remain vulnerable to hunting, bycatching by commercial fisheries, and becoming entangled in fishing nets.
Marine queen Nukumi was the sixth great white shark sampled during OCEARCH’s month-long Nova Scotia expedition. “She will help our collaborating science team with 21 research projects,” the team added in their post.
In an update on Oct. 5, Fischer reported that OCEARCH had since encountered two additional female sharks, bringing their total to eight tagged, sampled, and released sharks of various genders and stages of development. Fischer praised the expedition for being “hugely successful,” and “a powerful experience for all of us.”
We would love to hear your stories! You can share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org