Nova Scotia

Meet Nukumi, the great white 'proper matriarch' tagged off N.S.

The U.S.-based shark research team Ocearch tagged their largest great white in the Northwest Atlantic so far and named her after a Mi'kmaw grandmother figure.

Shark named after a Mi'kmaw grandmother figure

Nukumi is the largest great white shark the U.S. research team Ocearch has tagged in its northwest Atlantic white shark study to date. She is named after a Mi'kmaw grandmother figure. (Chris Ross/Ocearch)

The U.S.-based shark research team Ocearch tagged their largest great white in the Northwest Atlantic so far and named her after a Mi'kmaw grandmother figure.

Nukumi, pronounced noo-goo-mee, was tagged on Friday morning near West Ironbound Island, south of Lunenburg, N.S.

She's more than five metres long, weighs 1,606 kilograms and is believed to be in her 50s.

"She actually is likely a proper grandmother," said Chris Fischer, the founding chairman and expedition leader of Ocearch.

Fischer said he was "awestruck" standing next to Nukumi. He described her as a "proper matriarch" and "queen of the ocean."

He said it was "very interesting" to see a great white her size in this area. Great whites like Nukumi, he said, play an important role in protecting fish stocks for future generations.

"When you look at this particular area where we are right now, the great white are the guardians of all of your fish stocks, they're preventing the seals from over-foraging and crashing the whole system," Fischer said.

"We know when the white sharks are present, and where there are seals are as well, that the seals during that period of time will eat one-fourth as much each day than they would if the white shark was not present."

Chris Fischer, the founding chairman and expedition leader of Ocearch, said it was humbling to be around a shark like Nukumi. (Chris Ross/Ocearch)

He said Ocearch has tagged other great white sharks her size elsewhere in the world, but not in the northwest Atlantic.

"It's very humbling," he said. "They make you feel small and when you look at their body, they have all these blotches and scars and marks and wounds that have healed over, some many years ago, some recently.

"And you really look at the animal and you really see the story of their life unfolding."

Fischer said it was important to give her a Mi'kmaw name. He said Ocearch met with members of the community before this latest research trip and were given a list of names.

"When you're standing next to such a unique shark like that then … you say the name, you can almost feel it once you understand the meaning right away if it's the right name," he said.

Fischer said this latest shark research trip started three-and-a-half weeks ago and that it's been "a brutal trip."

He said a hurricane and two tropical storms limited the work.

"I couldn't be prouder of all the people that ground through that. So here, into the last week, we got a weather window and the ocean gave us an opportunity.

"I think it's kind of a reflection of how 2020 has been for people. It's been a tough year, but if we all stick together and endure and grind it out, we will come out the other side and good things will happen."

Fischer also noted three of the four sharks that have been tagged on this trip so far are up and pinging. Their whereabouts are posted on Ocearch's tracking website.

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

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