Huge Great White Shark Dubbed 'Queen of the Ocean' Is Over 50 Years Old and Covered in Scars

A 17-foot long female great white shark was caught and tagged by a scientific research expedition this week in waters off Canada.

The massive fish, weighing more than 3,500 pounds, was the sixth white shark sampled during a four week-long mission in the Northwest Atlantic conducted by OCEARCH, which is a non-profit research organization focused on the feared ocean predators.

Scientists named the shark "Nukumi"—pronounced noo-goo-mee—after a grandmother figure with cultural relevance to the Mi'kmaq, a First Nations people that is indigenous to what are now known as Canada's Maritime Provinces, including Nova Scotia.

Experts have estimated that Nukumi is more than 50 years old and said her beaten up appearance was a glimpse into her experiences over that lengthy timespan.

"A big mature female white shark, proper queen of the ocean, matriarch of the sea, the balance keeper of the future, you know, a grandmother. She is probably 50 years old, and certainly her first litters she would have been having 30 years ago are also making babies," expedition leader Chris Fischer said in a Facebook video upload.

"Really humbling to stand next to a large animal like that. When you look at all of the healed over scars and blotches on her skin you are really looking at the story of her life. And it makes you feel really insignificant. But, a powerful experience for all of us."

3,541 lb #greatwhiteshark “Nukumi” is an ancient mature female #whiteshark or “Queen of the Ocean” that will share years worth of knowledge with the collaborative #OCEARCH science team. #ExpeditionNovaScotia #FactsOverFear pic.twitter.com/USVdvfqrdm

— OCEARCH (@OCEARCH) October 3, 2020

Another look at #whiteshark ‘Nukumi’. She’s a mature female #greatwhiteshark, and the 6th the team has been able to sample during #ExpeditionNovaScotia #FactsOverFear pic.twitter.com/yVE27goyY1

— OCEARCH (@OCEARCH) October 3, 2020

The latest OCEARCH mission—aiming to tag and collect samples from sharks—scoured the waters off Nova Scotia, spanning between September 8 to October 6.

The organization's social media accounts shared an image and a video of Nukumi after it was hoisted from the sea onto a research vessel platform on October 2. The group said it was the largest shark sampled in the Northwest Atlantic study to date.

Multiple tags that were attached to the gigantic shark will enable researchers to track its movements over the next five years and log how deep it swims, the team said.

Nukumi will soon be listed on an OCEARCH database showing active pings of dozens of tagged sharks as they migrate along the coast and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Broadly, the researchers monitor reproductive cycles, birth locations, diseases and how the sharks are impacting on other species. "[Nukumi] was full of multiple seals and was round and robust," Fischer told the Miami Herald. "She had a lot of scratches on her face from seals that were fighting with their claws when she was eating them."

OCEARCH said data from Nukumi will help to balance fish stocks in the surrounding waters" and will aid more than 20 research projects. "We look forward to learning more from this wise guardian of our ocean's ecosystem," it wrote in a Facebook post.

A Smithsonian Institution fact-sheet on great white sharks says that the average female reaches between 15-16 feet long, while males typically span between 11-13 feet.

Nukumi great white shark
Image released on October 2, 2020, by shark research organization OCEARCH showing Nukumi, a 3,541 pound mature female great white. OCEARCH/Chris Ross