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Florida man names shark after his wife for Valentine’s Day

Diver spotted shark off Riviera Beach

In this Aug. 11, 2016, photo, a great white shark swims past as researchers chum the ocean in the waters off Gansbaai, South Africa. Extensive research by shark researcher Michael Rutzen and his marine biologist partner, Sara Andreotti, has found that great whites off the South African coast are rapidly heading for extinction. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
In this Aug. 11, 2016, photo, a great white shark swims past as researchers chum the ocean in the waters off Gansbaai, South Africa. Extensive research by shark researcher Michael Rutzen and his marine biologist partner, Sara Andreotti, has found that great whites off the South African coast are rapidly heading for extinction. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam) (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu)

How did you say Happy Valentine's Day to your significant other this year?

A heart-shaped box of chocolates? A dozen red roses? A romantic candlelit dinner? A day of pampering at the spa?

A Viera man has most of us beat, at least on unique style points. Jim Cocci named a shark after his wife, Colleen, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

That’s right. A great white shark, no less.

Tuesday, Cocci and 10 other divers were on a group charter with Walker’s Dive Charters out of Riviera Beach. On their second dive of the day, the divers were able to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: an encounter with a large great white shark.

“It appeared out of the dark blue haze like an apparition — and it was massive,” Cocci told Florida Today Wednesday.

Cocci said the shark swam away before anyone could really get any images of it. But as luck would have it, it came back to give the divers another look.

This time, Cocci had his video camera rolling and he swam as fast he could to keep close enough to the shark for a few seconds to get good quality images.

The team from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Shark Research Program was notified of the sighting. Immediately, the team began working through its database of more than 120 known white sharks to see if the shark was one the program “knew.”

Turns out, it wasn't. So Thursday, the program contacted Cocci and gave him the honor of naming the shark for its database. Cocci chose to name it after his wife and best friend of the past 37 years — Colleen.

Cocci wrote this on his Facebook page: "Announcement! Our recently documented Great White shark has been determined by the Massachusetts Shark Research Program to be a new discovery.

"Our 'new' shark has been entered into the database and is named 'Colleen' after my loving wife, very best friend and greatest dive buddy ever! Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey!!"

Colleen's response on his thread was classic.

“Jeez... now how will I ever top that?”

"I am excited! That face just doesn’t show it 😂🦈. 😍❣️" was her reply under the response.

Greg Skomal, lead researcher for the shark research program, also announced it on Facebook and Twitter.

"Meet Colleen, the latest addition to the white shark database. I’ve identified hundreds of individual white sharks in the Atlantic and it always amazes me that I’m still seeing new ones.

“Remember if you have a shark encounter please contact me. You can tag me, DM me or e-mail me MassSharks@gmail.com. Thanks to Jim Cocci for sharing his video and Ed Killer for the heads up on this sighting.”

Last year, program researchers reached out to identify another great white shark photographed by diver Tommy Allore of Stuart off Jupiter. That shark, Salty, was first observed off Massachusetts in 2012.

Since 2009, the program has been cataloging records of observations through a photo and video database, according to its website. In conjunction with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy since 2014, the program now charts more than 300 white sharks.

The records help the program study:

  • Ecology
  • Distribution and movements
  • Relative abundance
  • Essential habitat
  • Natural history
  • Physiology

This research helps the program achieve its goals to:

  • Foster cooperative research
  • Participate in state, regional, and federal management processes
  • Provide public education on these shark species

Anyone with future sightings can email the research program at MassSharks@gmail.com or by interacting with them on social media at:

Twitter: @MA_Sharks

Facebook: MA Sharks

Instagram: MA_Sharks