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NAGO, Okinawa — Seven great white shark pups rescued after their mother was caught in a fisherman’s net last week have died.

Commercial fishermen in the East China Sea netted the pups’ 16-foot-long, 2,866-pound mother on Jan. 18. She was dead, but the seven pups found inside her still were alive and, although premature, were transported from the fishing dock in Yomitan to the Churaumi Aquarium at Ocean Expo Park in Nago.

The mother’s carcass also was taken to the aquarium for study.

“Because they were immature babies, they all died by Sunday, one after another,” said Keiichi Sato, a marine scientist with the Churaumi Aquarium. “The mother shark was believed to have been between the middle and late stages of pregnancy.”

“The chances were very slim for [the pups] to survive under the circumstances,” said Hideshi Teruya, another marine scientist at the aquarium. “Although it was unfortunate that the babies could not make it, they, as well as their mother, left very valuable specimens for us.”

Teruya said the aquarium was inundated with inquiries from international researchers who learned of the event from an article in Stars and Stripes.

“We have been receiving numerous e-mails from around the world, asking for detailed information on the sharks,” he said. “Some organizations said that they would like to see the specimen.”

The great white shark was snagged in a fishing net in the waters between Okinawa and the nearby Kerama Islands. Because sharks must keep swimming in order to breathe, it was dead before the fisherman could make it back to port.

The average size of a full-grown great white shark, known as the world’s largest predatory fish, is 13 to 16 feet, with a weight of 1,500 to 2,500 pounds — although some have been recorded at up to 22 feet and more than 4,400 pounds.

At first, the Yomitan fishermen’s association would not comment on the capture, fearing the news of such a large shark in the waters off Okinawa would deter tourism. But Teruya noted that most sharks steer clear of humans and the coral reefs that surround Okinawa usually keep the dangerous fish at bay.

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