Michael Domeier tags a Galapagos shark off the Kona Coast. (Erik Madison/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Michael Domeier with friend and actor Paul Walker star in the documentary “Spawn of Jaws” which premieres Tuesday on the Discovery Channel as part of Shark Week. (Erik Madison/Special to West Hawaii Today)
A white shark pictured in the waters off Guadalupe Island. (Michael Domeier/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Waikoloa resident Michael Domeier is sinking his teeth into Shark Week. This is the first time Domeier, president and executive director of the Marine Conservation Science Institute, will appear on the Discovery Channel’s highly popular summer series, which combines science, delight and fright.
While he knows the scare factor tends to lure large audiences, Domeier hopes to balance things by providing a good conservation and educational message. He stars as a “maverick scientist” in the documentary “Spawn of Jaws,” which premieres Tuesday.
“Helped by ‘Fast & Furious’ star, Paul Walker, (Domeier) risks life and limb to unravel the mystery of where Jaws gives birth. To pull it off, he needs to get within arm’s reach of the ocean’s fiercest predator with the biggest bite in the water,” according to Icon Films’ production overview.
Domeier is known for his work with pelagic fishes, white sharks and coral reef fishes, and for being a pioneer in the field of electronic tagging. He has studied great white sharks for the past 14 years and his work, centered on animals found at Guadalupe Island, Mexico, is considered the most comprehensive great white research project in the world. “Spawn of Jaws” is a way to share his latest research with the public in an entertaining, yet informative way.
Using special tags attached to a shark’s dorsal fin, Domeier was able to track several great white sharks from a specific population for up to three years. Tagging this way is safe for the sharks and exciting for researchers, who must first catch these massive predators. Also, great whites have around 240 serrated teeth in up to five rows, he added.
Through this method of tracking, Domeier discovered mature female sharks have a two-year breeding cycle. He also found that male and female sharks tend to avoid each other as much as possible. Not wanting to reveal too much, Domeier urged those chomping at the bit for more to tune in Tuesday. He also mentioned local talent, mostly from charter boats, is featured in the film.
Domeier said working with Walker made sense because of the actor’s passion for the ocean. Walker studied marine biology in college and would have gone on that career path if he wasn’t in the film industry, he said.
Domeier expressed gratitude for Walker’s participation, saying he may bring a bigger and new audience to Shark Week, which in turn may help with the Marine Conservation Science Institute’s conservation efforts and future expeditions. According to its website, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization was “founded on the belief that focused research can make a difference in how we view and manage our marine resources.”
“They are cool,” Domeier said, “and I believe we have a moral and ethical responsibility that sharks be here on our planet.” His data has shown the sharks he tracks seasonally migrate from Mexico to deep oceanic waters as far away as Hawaii, spending months at sea before returning to Guadalupe Island. He said there’s no clear understanding why white sharks frequent Hawaiian waters.
His nonprofit recently launch Expedition White Shark, an iPhone and iPad application that allows users to track more than 100 tagged great white sharks, as well as learn more about their life history, the threat and what researchers are learning. The app, which costs $3.99, is available on Apple’s iTunes Store.
In celebration of Shark Week, Domeier has created a special Great White honey with Rare Hawaiian Honey Co. Domeier and his wife, Amy, purchased the business last December from the previous owner because they admired his commitment to sustainable agriculture and meticulous attention to creating one-of-a-kind gourmet honey varieties. The couple moved the business from Ahualoa to Waimea, where it’s located in the same building as Tropical Dreams ice cream company on Lalamilo Farm Road. Before moving to the Big Island, they were honey hobbyists.
The Great White honey is 100 percent kiawe honey that was put through a slow, natural crystallization process. The label features a shark drawing by Carol Lynn, graphic by Mark Miller and a QR code, which smartphone users can scan to learn about sharks tagged by the Marine Conservation Science Institute. By learning about individual sharks, each of whom are named, Domeier hopes people will have an emotional investment or connection with them. He wants to dispel perceptions of white sharks as blood-thirsty killers and tell other stories about them.
Ten percent of the proceeds from this honey will go to shark research. Kamaaina discounts are available, as well as free tastings and tours. Rare Hawaiian Honey Co. is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. For more information, visit rarehawaiianhoney.com.