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Great White Shark Began to Eat Before It Was Freed

August 06, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

A young great white shark held by researchers in an undersea pen off Malibu for nearly a week had begun to feed before being released to the ocean, officials said.

Monterey Bay Aquarium researchers have video -- shot from the surface and underwater -- of the 1-year-old female eating salmon filets Sunday afternoon. It marked the first time a great white shark has been confirmed feeding in a captive environment, aquarium spokesman Ken Peterson said.

The shark was caught accidentally by a commercial fisherman off the Ventura coast last week. It swam out of the 5-million-gallon mesh pen sometime Sunday night or Monday morning, Peterson said.

It could not be kept any longer because the pen, which was leased, had to be returned to its owners today. Researchers did not have time to put the shark into a smaller ocean pen or simulate a trip to Monterey, hurdles they wanted to overcome before bringing the animal to the Northern California aquarium.

This was the second season in a three-year $1.2-million effort by the aquarium to capture a great white shark for its 1-million-gallon Outer Bay exhibit. No public aquarium has ever kept a great white shark on display for more than a few weeks, largely because the animals have been unable to feed while in captivity, researchers said.

The research team will resume activities in Ventura County waters next summer.

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