OCEARCH Embarks on Expedition Southeast

Unprecedented White Shark Research Is Headed Back to the Southeast United States

Park City, Utah, Nov. 09, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- OCEARCH is embarking on its 46th ocean research expedition to further our knowledge of white sharks as they migrate to the southeast United States and begin their winter residency. 

Alongside 41 collaborators from 28 research institutions, the organization will assist scientists to collect data to support 24 science projects that will help solve, for the first time, the life history of the white shark in the Western North Atlantic Ocean. 

During Expedition Southeast OCEARCH’s goal will be to study mature animals to better understand how they utilize their overwintering area, and identify what oceanographic features and diet resources are important to them. Examination of these adult animals, and particularly females during this time of year, may also help scientists better understand the reproductive cycle for the species. 

OCEARCH data shows a trend where larger animals demonstrate greater use of the waters off the continental shelf when compared to juvenile animals, particularly adult female animals in the later winter and spring. Following these data, Expedition Southeast will target both coastal areas near North Florida, South Georgia and the Carolinas, as well as offshore areas closer to the continental shelf margin and the Gulf Stream.

The extensive range of habitat that white sharks use for winter residency from December to mid May extends from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to the Atlantic Coast of Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. “Unlike in the summer fall foraging area where white sharks aggregate around feeding areas, they are much more dispersed and elusive throughout the region during this time period, making them challenging to find and study,” explains OCEARCH Chief Scientist and Veterinarian Dr. Harley Newton. This coupled with the tumultuous weather this region faces this time of year, will make this expedition one of OCEARCH’s most challenging. 

OCEARCH’s Western North Atlantic White Shark Study is the most comprehensive study of white sharks in the world and includes a full health assessment of each shark, microbiological studies, movement, temperature and depth studies through the use of three different tags, and more. With 92 sharks studied in the Western North Atlantic ocean, OCEARCH is in the last stages of their sample collection in this region. The team has just 8 sharks left to reach their goal of 100 sharks sampled and tagged in the western North Atlantic. 

"At this point in our study, it's all about filling in the remaining, critical gaps. Expedition Southeast takes us to a place and time in the Western North Atlantic's white shark range where we need to know what the sharks are eating, what environmental threats they're facing, and, after we tag them, where they return to next summer. The work will be exciting but challenging, and each and every shark our science team is able to study will be pure gold,” explains Dr. Bob Hueter, OCEARCH Senior Science and Academic Advisor. 

Expedition Southeast will depart from Jacksonville, FL on November 27 before a final docking planned in Morehead City, NC on December 15. Explore alongside the team in real time on social media @OCEARCH. 

Additional Expedition Southbound materials, including photo and video assets available for use by the press can be found here.  

OCEARCH is a global non-profit organization conducting unprecedented research on our ocean's giants in order to help scientists collect previously unattainable data in the ocean. Our mission is to return our world’s oceans to balance and abundance through fearless innovations in critical scientific research, education, outreach, and policy using unique collaborations of individuals and organizations in the U.S and abroad. OCEARCH is recognized as a world leader in generating scientific data related to tracking (telemetry) and biological studies of keystone marine species such as great white sharks, tiger sharks, and more. OCEARCH provides a free open-sourced Global Shark Tracker® and app that allows scientists, educators, and fans alike to learn about the never before documented movements of our ocean's animals. The non-profit organization provides a free STEM education curriculum that enables students to learn STEM skills while promoting environmental awareness. OCEARCH’s research is proudly supported by the following socially responsible organizations: Costa Sunglasses, Rogue Sharks, SeaWorld, Yeti, Ulysse Nardin, Blundstone, Cisco Brewers, Jefferson’s Bourbon and our educational home Jacksonville University. Learn more at ocearch.org.


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