Marine Biologist in Hawaii Swims Peacefully with Massive Shark: 'This Is the Largest Great White I've Ever Seen'
On Tuesday, marine biologist Ocean Ramsey and her team got the thrill of a lifetime when a giant Great White Shark bumped into their boat as they worked off the coast of Oahu.
The moment was “absolutely breathtaking, heart-melting,” Ramsey, who was in the water with the creature, told Today. “[I was] overjoyed to be approached by this big, beautiful, massive … shark. It fills my heart with joy. It kind of breaks my heart at the same time … I just realized that moments like this are increasingly rare because shark populations are being wiped out for shark fin soup and shark finning.”
Ramsey, who’s spent the past 10 years studying sharks and working to protect them, estimated the female shark to be 50 years old, weigh more than 2 tons and stretch 8-ft. wide and 20-ft. long. Her size could mean she’s pregnant — or “very full,” the biologist said.
While most people would be terrified to come close to a shark that big, Ramsey was at peace with the moment.
“So many people out around the world seeing her would think ‘monster’ and want to kill her because of movies like Jaws — people are afraid,” Ramsey told Today. “Truthfully, they swim past surfers and divers all day, every day.”
According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, it’s unusual to see Great Whites in Hawaii, as they are usually found on the cooler California coast, eating sea lions and elephant seals. This particular whale — who followed a group of tiger sharks — was in the area to feed off a sperm whale carcass that’s been lingering several miles off the coast.
Ramsey said that while on average, there are less than 10 human fatalities from shark attacks annually, people kill an astounding 70 to 100 million sharks every year.
“I hope that people will be inspired to help protect them” based on this encounter, Ramsey said, “so maybe moments like that are possible.”
According to the Star Advertiser, Ramsey is currently gathering support for legislation to stop the intentional killing of sharks. Hawaii did ban shark finning (literally removing the fins of a shark) in 2010; it was the first state to do so.
Based on some of the shark’s markings, Ramsey believes the animal might be the famous Deep Blue, a creature featured on Shark Week and first tagged by researchers in Mexico 20 years ago. (Additional experts will soon be able to verify that hypothesis via tagging and tracking.)
But either way, “this is the largest white shark I’ve ever seen,” Ramsey said. “She’s a big healthy individual. I hope she survives because we need more big, healthy, pregnant sharks out there.”