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Fortrose great white shark alert raises eyebrows on Black Isle as tag hunt begins

By Hector MacKenzie

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A great white shark.
A great white shark.

NEWS of a great white shark alert in Fortrose raised eyebrows on the Black Isle when it appeared in a number of Google alerts this evening.

The alerts allow users to track subjects and geographical areas of interest direct to their email inboxes.

The Black Isle peninsula is familiar with the dolphins that visitors from around the world flock to Chanonry Point to glimpse.

So when the alert flagging news of an Australian great white tag being found on the beach at Fortrose landed, it certainly captured the attention of those who selected the Black Isle town as one of their chosen alerts.

And perhaps a certain amount of consternation for dolphin lovers fearing for the fate of the beloved mammals.

It turns out – of course – that this wasn't THAT Fortrose but rather its namesake on the southernmost coast of the South Island of New Zealand in a region known as Southland.

It transpires that a search is under way in Southland for the tag from a great white being monitored in Australia, with locals more locals encouraged to join the hunt.

SEE ALSO: WATCH: Adopted dolphin star Charlie offers escort of wildlife tour operator

It's understood the tag was washed up on a remote, rocky beach on the far western edge of the Catlins only accessible at low tide.

The Southland Times reports that a local shark diving operator was notified by a research team in New South Wales that a tag attached to a Great White it was monitoring had been tracked to the beach near Fortrose on Tuesday.

The Australian team was using an app as a live monitoring tool and had been sharing it with Shark Experience.

The tags are apparently designed to eventually drop off the sharks and are monitored via GPS, with a wealth of fascinating data they collect revealing more about shark behaviour and movement.

Locals in the Fortrose area – THAT Fortrose – were already reportedly pitching in to help, local media reported.

One possible fly in the ointment is that the tag looks similar to a black mussel shell – of which there are many on that particular beach.

Fortrose on New Zealand's South Island. Image: Google Maps
Fortrose on New Zealand's South Island. Image: Google Maps

Described on the website New Zealand History as "a small windswept settlement", Fortrose sits near a lagoon at the mouth of the Mataura River on Toetoes Bay.

The site of an early Māori settlement and a whaling station for a couple of years in the 1830s, it thrived as a port until the railway from Invercargill reached nearby Waimāhaka in 1899, making it practical to ship goods through the larger port at Bluff.

The site goes on to say that it was named after the Fortrose more familiar to Ross-shire folk – and, of course, dolphin lovers from around the world.

Another local tourism website says the name Fortrose is associated with a Scottish drover from Inverness-shire in Scotland "who claimed the area was similar to the Scottish Fortrose".

And with further echoes of the Ross-shire village, it transpires that the down under version boasts New Zealand’s southernmost mainland golf course. A local website tantalises would-be golfers: " Tokanui Golf Club is exposed to the elements perched over the Southern Ocean. A short course on a calm day but yardages don’t mean much when the southerly blasts join you on your round."

Great white sharks can be found throughout the world’s oceans, mostly in cool waters close to the coast.

Their streamlined shape helps then cut through the water at up to 60km/h.

Its mouth is equipped with a set of 300 sharp, triangular teeth arranged in up to seven rows.

When they’re young, they feed on small prey, such as fish. As they get bigger, they feast on sea mammals such as sea lions, seals and even small whales.

And while they're are at the top of the food chain and aren’t likely to be killed by other sea creatures they are under serious threat by human activity.

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