Park City, UT, Nov. 01, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- OCEARCH is excited to announce that its Nova Scotia Expedition has concluded, resulting in the discovery of a white shark hotspot off Nova Scotia’s South Shore. OCEARCH and its team of U.S. and Canadian scientists spent 21 days on the water and successfully gathered about 300 samples from seven white sharks that were safely released back into the water. Six of the sharks were equipped with satellite tags that are already tracking the sharks live on the OCEARCH Tracker.

OCEARCH and its team of collaborating scientists were led to Nova Scotia because previous data suggested this area could be a potential mating site for the North Atlantic white shark. “We went up there with the hypothesis that maybe the animals were mating, but we did not see evidence of mating,” said Dr. Robert Hueter, Chief Scientist on the Nova Scotia Expedition and Director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory. Although the hypothesis was neither proved or disproved, more questions were raised.

“We found mature males and females, but we also found sub-adult males and females. Is this an actual mating site, just a feeding site for this time of year, or a refuge of some kind? We don’t know yet. We hope our sampling and tagging efforts will help us find clearer answers,” Dr. Hueter added. “So far, we can say that the area where we tagged the seven sharks, south of Lunenburg, is clearly a hotspot for this species and a great place to increase our sample size for our white shark studies.”

The team sampled adult and sub-adult sharks of both sexes - five males and two females, including Luna, a 15-foot long shark named after the people of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. She is the second biggest white shark OCEARCH has tagged in the North Atlantic, after Mary Lee. The team also reported at least four other white shark sightings and signs of shark activity that, combined with the number of animals sampled, indicate a hotspot for this keystone species.

The expedition brought the total number of white sharks OCEARCH has SPOT-tagged in the north Atlantic to 39. The success of the expedition can in part be attributed to the collaborative nature of the undertaking. OCEARCH hosted 11 researchers, from 9 institutions during the trip. The roughly 300 samples gathered will support 15 studies by 26 scientists from 19 different research institutions.

OCEARCH also worked closely with the Canadian government during every phase of the expedition to make sure all rules and regulations were precisely followed. Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists were onboard the M/V OCEARCH vessel nearly every day of the expedition.

The Nova Scotia Expedition was OCEARCH’s 33rd expedition and first ever trip to Canada. OCEARCH hopes to return to Nova Scotia on future expeditions to gather data and learn more about the high level of shark activity in the area.

Ami Meite