After a three-week expedition in the waters off Montauk, NY, OCEARCH and its collaborating scientists have confirmed the first known nursery – and likely birthing site – for the great white shark in the Northwest Atlantic.
The team tagged a total of nine young-of-the-year white sharks. “This is a giant step forward for our research,” said Tobey Curtis, Montauk expedition lead scientist and fisheries biologist at NOAA Fisheries. “For the next several years, these tagged sharks will give us new insights into their movements, migration patterns, and preferred habitats. This information will be useful for informing conservation and fisheries management strategies.”
“This is a historical moment and the first step in revealing the great white shark pupping ground,” said Chris Fischer, Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader. “It’s this kind of scientific data that will help us collectively make more informed decisions about how to protect this incredible species.”
OCEARCH is now heading to Nantucket, MA for another three-week expedition to tag mature great white sharks. The expedition, largely supported by Costa Sunglasses and YETI Coolers, will begin on September 20 and end on October 10th. The data gathered will build on the ongoing research and previous findings from great white sharks Mary Lee, Lydia, Katharine, Betsy, and Genie. This will allow OCEARCH and its collaborating scientists to increase the sample size necessary to get a complete picture of the movements and habitats for adult white sharks in the North Atlantic.
The group has teamed with Aurora Flight Sciences, a leading unmanned flight development company, to provide aerial support for locating and tracking sharks in the area.
Aurora’s Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA) Centaur will be controlled by an air vehicle operator onboard the OCEARCH vessel, and flown within line-of-sight range to capture images of the water. The images will allow OCEARCH and its collaborating scientists to identify and track the locations of sharks in real-time, as well as give direction for specific areas that Centaur should fly for crucial time-saving captures.
Once the shark is captured, the team, led by Dr. Robert Hueter, Senior Scientist and Director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL, will take measurements and conduct health assessments of the giant fish by collecting blood, muscle and mucus samples, parasites, and fin clips for genetics, and by conducting ultrasound exams of mature females. The team includes researchers from Mote, University of North Florida, Adventure Aquarium, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Florida International University, Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium, and other organizations and universities.
“12 procedures in 15 minutes and then off they go, that’s our goal,” said Dr. Hueter. “It’s such an incredibly rare opportunity to learn everything we can about these magnificent predators so that we can understand and protect them.”
All white sharks will be outfitted with satellite-linked electronic tags and internal acoustic tags. Anyone and everyone can follow their movements by accessing the near-real time, free online Global Shark Tracker or by downloading the Global Shark Tracker App available for Apple and Android platforms.
“Creating a global ocean movement that connects the dots between sharks and the health of the ocean, through research expeditions, the Global Shark Tracker, and the OCEARCH STEM Education Program is essential to ensuring a healthy ocean for our kids,” said Chris Fischer.