YOMITAN, Okinawa — Commercial fishermen netted a pregnant great white shark in the East China Sea near Okinawa , drawing a crowd of onlookers Thursday to Yomitan’s Toya port, near Torii Station.
Seven live shark pups found inside the creature were taken to an aquarium in an effort to keep them alive.
The shark was about 16 feet long and weighed 2,866 pounds, according to Hideshi Teruya, of the Churaumi Aquarium at Ocean Expo Park in Nago. It was snagged in a commercial fishing net between Okinawa and the nearby Kerama Islands .
Teryua said the great whites are among the world’s largest predatory fish and “are known for being particularly vicious.”
However, he added that they are also probably the most misunderstood creatures in the ocean. Even though several kinds of sharks have attacked humans in Okinawa waters over the years, most steer clear of humans, he said. The coral reefs that surround Okinawa usually keep the dangerous sharks at bay.
The shark caught Thursday was in open water.
“It was huge,” said Emmanuel Lacoste, an Okinawa Christian School International teacher who was going to buy fresh fish at the port market when he spotted a crowd gathering near a fishing boat. “It drew quite a bit of excitement from people down at the port.”
The carcass was loaded by crane to a truck and transported to the aquarium for study. Teryua said he was excited about the catch.
“We know very little about great whites,” Teruya said. “This one was a female and was carrying seven babies. Since sharks need to keep swimming in order to stay alive, she died when trapped by the net. But the babies were still alive.”
The average size of a full grown great white shark is 13 to 16 feet, with a weight of 1,500 to 2,500 pounds, although some have been measured at about 22 feet and weighing more than 4,400 pounds.
Teruya said he did not know how far off Okinawa ’s coast the shark was caught. The fishermen told him the catch was accidental.
“It was probably looking for food,” he said. “In the past, there have been perhaps a total of 10 great white sharks caught off Okinawa . The last one off Yomitan was 10 years ago,” he said.
He added that in April 2005 a large pregnant great white was caught in a fixed net some 530 yards off Torii Beach , but she escaped before a crew from the aquarium could transport her to Ocean Expo Park .
“We are not sure if the shark caught Thursday is the same one,” Teruya said.