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Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Scientists tag a great white
Neale Csiro
Neale has already travelled about 800 km
Australian scientists have tagged a great white shark with a satellite transmitter to try to learn more about the marine creature's habits.

The 2.3-metre-long (7.5 feet) juvenile shark taking part in this novel experiment is called Neale and updates on his progress through the waters off Australia's east coast can be followed on the web.

Neale facts
A male white shark
About 2.3 metres in length
About 150 kilograms in weight
Probably four to five years old
Feeds mostly on fish, small sharks and rays
As an adult, he could be about 5 m in length and weigh up to 1250 kg
It is the second time researchers have attempted to track the movements of a great white with satellite technology. The first effort, made with a female juvenile called Heather, lasted just over a month before the tag apparently malfunctioned.

"Applying satellite tags is a difficult process and tags are expensive, but this type of tracking is allowing us to build a picture of the movement and behaviour of white sharks in Australian waters," said Dr John Stevens, from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Csiro).

"For example, we hope to establish how closely the shark's movement patterns are aligned to those of the snapper schools where [Neale] has been feeding and how far he ranges when these schools disperse."

Battery power

Neale was captured off Port Albert, Victoria, on 2 March with the assistance of local commercial fisher Neale Blunden - hence the name. The shark was out of the water for just six minutes.

Heather Csiro
Heather was tracked for 46 days
The tag, which is 20 centimetres (eight inches) long, has an aerial that sticks up along the shark's dorsal fin. The tag transmits Neale's position about every two to three days, and can be used to pinpoint his location in the ocean down to about 150 metres (492 feet).

A saltwater switch on the tag ensures that it does not transmit when underwater, thereby saving battery power.

Barring damage, the tag should keep relaying positional information on the shark's daily and seasonal movement patterns for up to a year.

Already, the data received indicate the shark has travelled more than 800 kilometres (497 miles). Neale swam up and down a 75-km (46-mile) section of the Victorian coast at an average distance of 15 km (9.3-miles) from shore for the first seven weeks of the track.

Web updates

He then headed north along the Victorian coast on 19 April at an average speed of 3 km per hour (1.8 mph) and 5-6 km (3-4miles) from shore, before moving offshore and turning south. He then swam south, across Bass Strait, reaching northern Tasmanian waters on 26 April.

"We are now at the exciting stage," said Mr Barry Bruce from Csiro. "Neale has switched behaviour from patrolling the coastal reefs off Victoria to a broad-scale move out of the area. We are eagerly awaiting his next move."

Those interested in following Neale's movements can see a track of where he has been on a special website posted by Csiro.

The researchers want to know whether white shark populations in various parts of Australia mix. They want some idea of where this protected species goes in different seasons and whether that changes between years.

The Csiro team also wants some indication as to which areas are important to the creatures, such as feeding, breeding or nursery grounds.

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See also:

22 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
Sharks endangered by fin trade
25 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
UK seeks to save basking shark
09 Feb 01 | Americas
Shark attacks at record high
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