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VIDEO: First Great White to be tagged and released in N. Atlantic

Posted at 10:33 PM, Sep 17, 2012
and last updated 2012-09-17 22:33:17-04

MASSACHUSETTS-- All summer there have been a series of Great White shark encounters right off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Now, an unprecedented mission is underway to learn what these sharks are doing.

Brett McBride has maneuvered live, 2,000 pound white sharks onto boats before, but he knew last Thursday was different.

“I think everybody on the boat felt like this was the most important shark we've ever caught,” Brett McBride said. “You could see it in their eyes - so focused.”

The focus was on the project, the first of its kind in the North Atlantic ocean; tagging a Great White shark.

There are hundreds of sharks off the coast in New England.

“There're supposed to be a lotta sharks in the ocean,” Chris Fischer, with the nonprofit Ocearch, said. “They're the great balance keeper.”

“If we put the future of sharks in jeopardy, we put the whole ocean in jeopardy,” he said.

Fischer started Ocearch, with the stated goal of bringing together the world's best fisherman and the world's best scientists.

“We don't know where they breed, we don't know where they feed, we don't know where they give birth,” said Fischer. “So until we figure that out, we can't even put policy in place to protect 'em.”

“Back in the day when these scientists wanted to learn about white sharks, they would go out and kill 'em all, and sample 'em,” explained Fischer. “And now, we at least have a system where we let 'em all go alive.”

Fischer's aggressive system involves fixing satellite-enabled tags to the sharks' dorsal fin.  Once released, they can be tracked in real-time anywhere in the world for five years.

McBride is responsible for guiding the shark onto the lift, then inserting hoses into its mouth so it can breathe. His hands are directly in front of 3,000 serrated teeth.

 “You know, really-- it-- it-- it's not as dangerous as it looks,” said McBride, who claimed he isn’t a thrillseeker. He prefers to go home to his wife and family.

Off Cape Cod, Ocearch has partnered with Dr. Greg Skomal, of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. After a summer of increased shark sightings, he hopes for answers.

Skomal pointed out that most research involves “trying to figure out why they occasionally bite people and not necessarily how they live.”

The crew chummed the waters for three days before hooking a Great White.  

In a quick amount of time, they got blood samples and put in the tag.

The shark, dubbed Genie, woke up and swam away, as the first tagged Great White in the Atlantic waters.