The Cambrian

Great white shark detected near Piedras Blancas elephant seals

A shark-tracking buoy was deployed by, from left, Capt. Mark Tognazzini of the The Bonnie Marietta, scientist Taylor Chapple, Ph.D., and first-mate Bill Skok.
A shark-tracking buoy was deployed by, from left, Capt. Mark Tognazzini of the The Bonnie Marietta, scientist Taylor Chapple, Ph.D., and first-mate Bill Skok.

Nearly six weeks after it was deployed, a shark-detecting buoy off the San Luis Obispo County coast has detected its first great white shark near the elephant seal rookery at Piedras Blancas, according to Friends of the Elephant Seal.

The acoustic tag detected at 11:45 a.m. Friday belongs to a 17-foot long male shark dubbed “Duke” tagged in December 2011 at Tomales Point, north of San Francisco. He was last located near the elephant seal rookery at Año Nuevo, north of Santa Cruz.

The buoy, deployed by researchers with Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station with the support of the Friends of the Elephant Seal, is one of four shark monitoring devices deployed near California elephant seal rookeries.

It’s intended to find out if the predators are attracted to areas with high concentrations of elephant seals.

The shark tags send out a signal every two minutes. If they’re within 1,500 feet of a detector, the signal is rebroadcast to a satellite, which forwards the message to a ground station that, in turn, notifies researchers on the ground by email within seconds.

About 100 sharks have been tagged.

The Piedras Blancas elephant seal colony began in 1990. Currently, an estimated 17,000 seals use the beach some time during the year.

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