OCEARCH Brings Advanced White Shark Research Back to the Southeast

Jacksonville, FL, March 20, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- OCEARCH is heading back to the southeast United States to embark on Expedition Northbound II, its 47th ocean research expedition, to learn more about our white sharks as they end their overwintering period and transition north for the summer.

From December to May white sharks spend their winter and spring throughout the southeast, from North Carolina to the Florida Keys and into the Gulf of Mexico. The movements and activities of these animals while they are in this region is still largely unknown. 

However, data from two adult white sharks (Hilton and Helena), previously studied by OCEARCH off South Carolina in the month of March, provided hints of reproductive activity. One goal during Expedition Northbound II will be to study mature animals of both sexes in order to gather the additional data needed to solve the most elusive piece of the Western North Atlantic White Shark Puzzle: when and where they mate. 

“During the summer and fall white sharks in the western North Atlantic are frequently found in aggregation sites and areas associated with specific prey resources. This makes them somewhat easier to encounter for research.  In the winter white sharks are spread throughout the entire Southern US, making encounters less frequent and their study more challenging.  Overwintering diet, habitat use, and potential reproductive activity are critical data we need to better understand the life history of the western North Atlantic white shark,” stated OCEARCH Chief Scientist and Veterinarian Dr. Harley Newton. 

Locating and sampling a specific size class of an animal is difficult, especially when the white sharks are spread out throughout their extensive range of habitat in this region. This coupled with the turbulent weather conditions in the southeast during this time of year will make this expedition challenging. 

“The biggest obstacle throughout this region has been weather because there’s nowhere to hide from it off the southeast. We’re hoping to get the right weather window on this trip so we can head further offshore towards the continental shelf  to take advantage of deeper water and eddies spinning off the Gulf Stream,”  explained Captain Brett Mcbride, OCEARCH’s Fishing Master. 

Expedition Northbound II supports OCEARCH’s Western North Atlantic White Shark Study, the world’s most comprehensive white shark study, which alongside 41 collaborators from 28 research institutions has collected data for up to 25 science projects over the past decade, helping solve, for the first time, the life history puzzle of the western North Atlantic white shark. OCEARCH has successfully  tagged 92 white sharks in this region, with just 8 sharks left to reach their goal of 100 sharks sampled, tagged and released in the western North Atlantic.  

Expedition Northbound II begins on April 1 from Jacksonville, Florida, at the site of the future OCEARCH Global Headquarters and will have a final docking in Charleston, South Carolina on April 21. Explore alongside the team in real time on social media @OCEARCH. 

Additional Expedition Northbound II materials, including photos 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 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 academic home is Jacksonville University and our research is proudly supported by the following socially responsible organizations: Costa Sunglasses, SeaWorld, Yeti, Yamaha Rightwaters, Landry’s Inc., and Cisco Brewers. Learn more at ocearch.org.


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