Fallen Soldiers Live on Through Great White Sharks Named in Their Honor

posted: 07/17/17
by: SharkWeek.com Staff
Spc. Brian Arsenault
Atlantic White Shark Conservancy

There are many ways in which we try to commemorate our fallen military heroes, everything from memorials to holidays to red crepe-paper poppies.

Now there's another way: by naming tagged great white sharks in their honor.

Army Spc. Brian Arsenault had always dreamed of swimming with sharks once he got out of the service. He never got that chance; the 28-year-old paratrooper -- and Shark Week fan -- was killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan on Sept. 4, 2014

Shortly after Brian's death, his cousin Elliott contacted the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC), a nonprofit based in Cape Cod that supports great white shark research, education and conservation. Elliott told them about Brian's love of sharks and his dream to cage-dive in Mexico; when the organization tagged a 12-foot great white male off the coast of Cape Cod that day -- the same day Brian died -- they named him Spc. Brian Arsenault.

As they said in a Facebook post, "To honor the memory of such a valiant young man who shared our love of white sharks and unselfishly served his country, Atlantic White Shark Conservancy is proud to name a tagged white shark after Brian."

Spc. Brian Arsenault is not alone; another great white is named Maj. Michael Donahue, after the 41-year-old operations support officer who died in a suicide car bomb attack on Sept. 16, 2014, in Afghanistan. Says his sister, Joanne Nickerson: "Mike LOVED Cape Cod and the sea, and our family reunion tradition was to watch Jaws before we went to Old Silver Beach for a swim. I am hoping to have his shark swimming around us this summer."

The tagging program is part of the organization's study of great whites in Massachusetts. By monitoring the sharks' movements, AWSC's scientists can work with local officials to safeguard beachgoers but also learn more about shark behavior. To date, 110 sharks -- many of which have also been named -- have been tagged and monitored.

From those tags we know that both Spc. Brian Arsenault and Maj. Michael Donahue arrive in Cape Cod every summer, staying until early fall. (Note: You can actually follow Spc. Brian Arsenault and Maj. Michael Donahue yourself by downloading the Shaktivity app.)

So while Spc. Brian Arsenault never got to dive with great whites, and Maj. Michael Donahue will not be joining his family on the Cape, their namesakes will continue to explore the ocean, generating the data that will be used to increase our knowledge of white sharks and contribute to the conservation of this vulnerable species.

We thank both men for their service, and their families for their sacrifice.


Maj. Michael Donahue
Atlantic White Shark Conservancy

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