GREAT WHITE SHARK RECORDED SIZES
The average length of a full grown great white is 4 to 4.8 metres (13.3 to 15.8 ft), with a weight of 680 to 1,100 kilograms (1,500 to 2,450 lbs), females generally being larger than males. But the question of the maximum size of a great white shark has been subject to much debate, conjecture, and misinformation. Richard Ellis and John E. McCosker, both academic shark experts, devote a full chapter in their book The Great White Shark (1991) to analysis of various accounts of extreme size.
Today, most experts contend that the great white's "normal" maximum size is about 6 metres (20 ft), with a maximum weight of about 1,900 kilograms (4,200 lb). Any claims much beyond these limits are generally regarded as doubtful, and are closely scrutinized.
For some decades many ichthyological works, as well as the Guinness Book of World Records, listed three great whites as the largest individuals caught : an 11 metre (36 ft) great white captured in south Australian waters near Port Fairy in the 1870s, an 11.3 metre (37.6 ft) shark trapped in a herring wier in New Brunswick, Canada in the 1930s and the record holder a 41.2 ft monster caught west coast of the Azores Islands by a Portugese fishing trawler. While this was the commonly accepted maximum size, reports of 7.5 to 10 metre (25 to 33.3 ft) great whites were common and often deemed credible.
Some researchers questioned the reliability of those measurements in the Guiness Book, noting they were much larger than any other accurately-reported great white. The New Brunswick shark may have been a wrongly-identified basking shark, as both sharks have similar body shapes. The question of the Port Fairy shark was settled in the 1970s, when J.E. Reynolds examined the shark's jaws and "found that the Port Fairy shark was of the order of 5 m (17 feet) in length and suggested that a mistake had been made in the original record, in 1870, of the shark's length. As for the Azores record holder, that listing has quietly been removed from the book since it's appearance in Guiness volumes in the late 1970's and early 1980's.
Richard Ellis and John E. McCosker, both academic shark experts, write that "the largest White Sharks accurately measured range between 19 and 21 ft [about 5.8 to 6.4 m], and there are some questionable 23-footers [about 7 m] in the popular — but not the scientific — literature". Furthermore, they add that "these giants seem to disappear when a responsible observer approaches with a tape measure." (For more about legendary exaggerated shark measurements, see the submarine).
The largest specimen Ellis and McCosker endorse as reliably measured was 6.4 metres (21.3 ft) long, caught in Cuban waters in 1945 (though confident in their opinion, Ellis and McCosker note, however, that other experts have argued this individual might have been a few feet shorter). See the photo of this Cuban shark below.
There have since been claims of larger great whites, but, as Ellis and McCosker note, verification is often lacking and these extraordinarily large great whites have, upon examination, all proved of average size. For example, a female said to be 7.13 metres (over 23 ft) was fished in Malta in 1987 by Alfredo Cutajar. In their book, Ellis and McCosker agree this shark seemed to be larger than average, but they did not endorse the measurement. In the years since, experts eventually found reason to doubt the claim, due in no small part to conflicting accounts offered by Cutajar and others. A BBC photo analyst concluded that even "allowing for error ... the shark is concluded to be in the 18.3 ft [5.5 m] range and NO WAY approaches the 23 ft [7 m] reported by Abela." (as in original)
Editor's Note: I received this email Sun Dec. 21 2008 .....
I am just writing a short letter to say that you have some wrong information on your web site, about the size of the great white shark caught in Malta.
It was not in the 5.5 M range it was a lot bigger, I am half Maltese and half English, and I have been living in Malta and even saw the shark they had caught, and let me tell you it was huge, no where near a average sized shark, and they also needed a flat bed truck to transport the shark, i will look for the news paper and try send you the cut out if you are interested, any way.
According to the Canadian Shark Research Centre, the largest accurately measured great white shark was a female caught in August 1983 at Prince Edward Island off the Canadian (North Atlantic) coast and measured 6.1 metres (20.3 ft). The shark was caught by David McKendrick, a local resident from Alberton, West Prince.
The question of maximum weight is complicated by an unresolved question: when weighing a great white, does one account for the weight of the shark's recent meals? With a single bite, a great white can take in up to 14 kilograms (30 lb) of flesh, and can gorge on several hundred kilograms or pounds of food.
Ellis and McCosker write in regards to modern great whites that "it is likely that [great white] sharks can weigh as much as 2 tons", but also note that the largest recent scientifically measured examples weigh in at about 2 tonnes (1.75 short tons).
The white shark in the photo below was caught off the coast of Cuba in the mid 1940's. It weighed an incredible 7,100 lbs (3.2 metric tonnes) and measured a length of 21 feet (6.4 meters).
The fishermen who caught it called it "El Monstruo de Cojimar." It was caught in the Gulf of Mexico waters, only a few miles from the shanty fishermen town of Cojimar,Cuba, the same town where famous American writer Ernest Hemingway wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Old Man and the Sea".
A friend of my father was one of six fishermen who participated in the hunt. My father tells the story and it feels that I'm reliving a scene from the movie "Jaws." As my father tells the story, it was a calm June day when six fishermen of Cojimar sailed out to sea in their 14-foot wooden skiff to fish for tuna, sharks, dorado and other species. It was their daily livelihood.
That day, although it was a typical day in June, there was an eerie feeling among the fishermen. Before sunrise, the fishermen already had sailed about three miles, just to the edge of the Gulf Stream, where the current is strong enough for large pelagic fish to abound. One of the fishermen put bait in the water, as he did every morning. Ballyhoo is the blue marlin's favorite bait. That particular day the fishermen wished for a large blue marlin, it was considered one of the best paid fish.
After a couple of hours, not a single fish had shown interest in the fresh ballyhoos that were lying motionless in the water. Other boats that were not too far away seemed to have the same luck. Old salts talk about luck all the time. Usually, one can see the splash of a fish that is being caught by another boat. Sometimes you can even hear fishermen in other boats when a fish is caught. But that day, all was calm. At exactly 9 a.m. a large shark fin appeared only a few feet way from the skiff. Although the fishermen were experienced shark fishermen, they were surprised and left speechless by the size of the fin cutting through the water. One of the fishermen exclaimed out loud "No wonder there are no fish around!" They knew it was a great white shark.
In great excitement, the fishermen tossed bait and chum in the water to keep the shark near. This shark was bigger than all other sharks that they had ever seen or caught. Immediately, they tied several lines together. For bait they used half of a tuna that was bitten by a smaller shark while fishing the day before.
The smell of bait and chum in the water brought the shark closer to the skiff, it passed parallel to the boat and the men saw that it was much bigger than their boat. They looked at each other with uncertainty and disbelief. It t was perhaps a moment of fear, however catching this shark would make the pay for many days at sea. There was no time to waste. They hooked the half tuna in a shark hook that was followed by a wire leader and by thousands of feet of old silk rope. One of the men gently tossed the bait in the deep blue water. The shark passed the boat again and swallowed the bait whole.
The shark began taking line almost immediately but the men knew that no human hands could stop such a fish. They had palangres with them, these are small wood rafts used to lay many lines in the water from one raft to the other. The palangres were used for swordfish fishing at night. The fishermen knew that the palangres would increase the resistance to the hooked shark.
After many hours of following the palangres that were being pulled by the shark, the line began to surface. They knew then that the fish was tired of pulling the extra weight. One of the fishermen recovered line while others prepared a harpoon. They knew that the most dangerous moment lay ahead, as the shark got closer to the boat.
After more than one hour of recovering line, they saw the shark 60 to 80 feet under the skiff -- even then, it looked big. The moment of truth was approaching. The fishermen could feel their own hearts beating rapidly. They were hoping that the shark was really tired or near death, but they did not imagine that their worst nightmare was approaching the boat.
When the shark was only 20 feet from the boat, it torpedoed directly to the keel and struck the boat sideways.Then it turned back and began biting the keel of the boat. One of the fishermen saw pieces of wood floating next to the boat. He described it as thousands of toothpicks floating next to the skiff. They knew that there was plenty of life left in the fish, so in a hurry they prepared the harpoon -- a hand-held wooden pole with a sharp bronze tip -- and without hesitation they harpooned the shark in its next attack to the boat.
The harpooned shark calmed down but not enough. The fish continued biting the keel of the boat and at one time it took pieces of the rudder. This fish put up a great fight before being caught, perhaps one of many fights in his long life. These fishermen respected the ocean and the creatures in it. They spoke highly about this particular shark and the fight it put on. Perhaps they were sorry that they had to kill such a great fish -- but they were fishermen by circumstances and not by choice.
A notes from the author:
The shark never made it to the International Game and Fishing Association records. Communication in 1945 was not as advanced as today. Although, many great white sharks claim records, this shark by far supersedes all statistics from all other great white sharks recorded. The estimated weight of this shark was 7,000 pounds and its length 21 feet. Its liver weighed approximately 1,500 pounds. The pictures were taken by a reporter from the French newspaper "Le' Monde." The reporter was vacationing in Havana and used his field camera. The photos were later taken out of Cuba by one of our family members. These photos will make shark experts rewrite the history of the largest great white shark ever caught.
Contributed by Eduardo J. Echenique, Davenport
The largest great white recognized by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) is one landed by Alf Dean in south Australian waters in 1959, weighing 1,208 kilograms (2,664 lb). Understand this monster was caught with a rod and reel folks! Several larger great whites caught by anglers have since been verified, but were later disallowed from formal recognition by IGFA monitors for rules violations. The most common rule violation is using mammals as bait which Mr. Dean apparently also did. But at the time of his catch this practice was not against IGFA rules. So his record stood.
Alf Dean's Great White record fish photo.
Great white shark caught in a set-net in Seven Star Lake, Hualien County, Taiwan, on May 14, 1997. Gross weight of this animal was 2500 kilograms and total length is estimated(?) at 6.7 to 7.0 metres. Source of information is Victor Lin. Possibly the largest great white shark ever recorded.
Huge Australian Man Eating Great White. G'day mY GAWD!!!!
Apparently Canadian waters has it's fair share of White Pointers as well!
"According to the Canadian Shark Research Centre, the largest accurately measured great white shark was a female caught in August 1988 at Prince Edward Island off the Canadian (North Atlantic) coast and measured 6.1 metres (20.3 ft). The shark was caught by David McKendrick, a local resident from Alberton, West Prince"
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