Managers from the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary came to Peter Klimley in May, asking him to share his permit for the study of Great White Sharks with a researcher from San Diego, Michael Domeier. Klimley turned them down flat because he is critical of Domeier's techniques. Maria Brown, Superintendent of the Farallones Sanctuary, gave Domeier a permit anyway. And in our interview for tonight's report, Brown told me she had never heard any criticism of Domeier's work, before she approved his trip to the Farallones two weeks ago. Clearly, a discrepancy.
Domeier does more than just approach a Great White. He baits a huge hook -- at the Farallones, he stitched blue whale meat to the hook -- and once the Great White strikes, the struggle can continue for more than an hour. When the shark is tired, the crew lowers a huge wooden platform a few feet underwater; they guide the shark onto it and bring the shark out of the water. They spend up to twenty minutes fitting the shark with a satellite tag that can last up to six years; they also take blood and tissue samples. Domeier says none of the seventeen sharks he's captured this way have died. Klimley and other researchers say the treatment amounts to animal cruelty, that the shark's internal organs can be damaged as its 4-5,000 pounds spread out over the platform and that pregnant sharks could suffer a spontaneous miscarriage. Klimley adds that the tags already in use (and which are applied in a less invasive manner) are yielding virtually the same type of data.
Domeier tells me he could only run such an operation with the backing of National Geographic -- he puts his budget at "millions". The show tonight on National Geographic's cable channel, "Expedition Great White", is apparenty a teaser for the 10-week series that will run next summer. It focuses solely on Domeier's work. He tells me the Farallones trip won't make air until the 2011 season.