Jacksonville expedition collects data on great white sharks

The OCEARCH research vessel docked at the bulkhead along the downtown river walk, just north of the Main Street Bridge, March 15.

The OCEARCH research vessel docked at the bulkhead along the downtown river walk, just north of the Main Street Bridge, March 15.

Many vacationers visit Northeast Florida for its warm waters. Great white sharks are no exception.

On March 15, shark research organization OCEARCH returned to downtown Jacksonville to embark on its second expedition here. Their first Jacksonville expedition in 2013 found this region to be an overwintering habitat for great white sharks.

Through April 2, OCEARCH collected data on great white sharks off northern Florida and southern Georgia coasts.

“Our early science indicates that this part of the United States is a crucial part and critical habitat of the north Atlantic white sharks’ lives,” said OCEARCH founding chairman and expedition leader Chris Fischer.

“We are delighted about OCEARCH’s return to Jacksonville,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “As an education and research leader, they will help increase awareness to northeast Florida’s growing location for shark conservation.”

The OCEARCH Team

The OCEARCH Team

The research group is dedicated to collecting data on the movement, biology and health of ocean predators like great white sharks to protect the species and enhance public safety.

In January 2013, OCEARCH researchers followed Mary Lee, a 4,000-pound white shark, from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to the Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier. This prompted OCEARCH to conduct more research in Jacksonville.

Soon after, OCEARCH scientists tagged Lydia, a 14-foot, 2,000-pound white shark near the mouth of the St. Johns River. The shark has since traveled more than 35,000 miles, and was the first documented white shark to cross the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This demonstrated the connectivity between Florida waters and northeastern Atlantic waters off Europe.

This expedition built on the ongoing research and previous findings from Mary Lee and Lydia.

Another goal of the expedition was to identify white shark mating sites by tagging a male shark. “Little is known of the reproductive biology of the white shark in the North Atlantic,” said Director of the University of North Florida’s shark biology program Dr. James Gelsleichter. His team focused on researching white shark reproduction.

The expedition’s team consisted of 11 researchers from multiple institutions. Partnering with OCEARCH allowed this group of scientists to have direct access to live and mature sharks, maximizing their studies on each shark.

Aboard the OCEARCH research vessel is the infamous open water hoist that brings the white sharks in for researchers to tag aboard the ship.

Aboard the OCEARCH research vessel is the infamous open water hoist that brings the white sharks in for researchers to tag aboard the ship.

Researchers were aboard the M/V OCEARCH, a 126-foot vessel equipped with a 75,000-pound hydraulic research platform. Once sharks are onboard, scientists have 15 minutes to measure them, collect tissue and blood samples, and attach satellite and acoustic transmitters.

To track the locations of white sharks such as Mary Lee and Lydia, visit www.ocearch.org to use the Global Shark Tracker.

By Monica Gutos

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

You must be logged in to post a comment Login