Great sigh: White sharks like Neale, last seen off Coffs Harbour, continue to be tagged and tracked by the CSIRO.
Great sigh: White sharks like Neale, last seen off Coffs Harbour, continue to be tagged and tracked by the CSIRO.

On the lookout for a famous shark

HIS name was Neale, a 150 kilogram visitor last seen off Coffs Harbour.

Scientists are now wondering what’s become of the big fella who by now would be around 1250 kilograms!

The then juvenile Great White shark enjoyed international fame back in 2001 as the subject of a breakthrough Australian research project shedding light on the mysterious life of the feared ocean hunters.

He was tracked for 3000km by a satellite transmitter and before the system finally broke down, his swim patterns revealed a penchant for the Coffs Coast.

One Digger’s Beach local reckons he spotted a Great White last week leaving plenty wondering whether the now adult Neale has returned.

Back in 2001, pre-eminent shark researcher Barry Bruce and his team at the CSIRO kept a close eye on Neale’s travels to the Solitary Islands over 129 days as hunted down snapper.

Now an endangered species and protected, no-one really knows what is happening with the ocean’s top predators.

“There is no common metric to count them or see how they are doing,” said Mr Bruce.

“The key question need not be exactly how many sharks there are but how their populations are going.

“How they’re populations are changing over time.

“Because they’re so slow to replenish their numbers, white sharks that were born with the benefit of protection 10 years ago still haven’t reached an adult breeding age,” he said.

In a documentary recently aired on the ABC, Barry’s team tagged the dorsal fins of white sharks near Hawks Nest.

He said while many were found in the surf zone, they cycle out to depths of about 100-140 metres, 15 kilometres offshore.

When Neale was captured off Port Albert, Victoria, with the assistance of local fisherman Neale Blunden, he was five-years-old.

As a shark close to adulthood today he could be five metres long and weigh up to 1250kg.

During his time off Coffs Harbour, scientists studied his movement in line with those of the snapper schools he was feeding on.

Nowadays, his staple diet would include much larger prey and mostly seals.



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