Cheryl McCloudUSA TODAY NETWORK - Florida
Snowbirds of a different sort can be expected in Florida waters in the coming months — and at least one has already arrived.
Following them will be scientists.
Their reputation is a bit different than those most Floridians attribute to snowbirds.
They don't have wings. They don't drive under the speed limit in the left lane. There's even a week on TV dedicated to them.
Sharks. Great white sharks. Tiger sharks. And even whale sharks.
Love 'em, hate 'em or respect 'em, they are frequent visitors in Florida waters, especially as sharks migrate south for the winter.
And OCEARCH loves to study them. The organization is planning its 46th ocean research expedition, named Expedition Southeast, later this month "to further our knowledge of white sharks as they migrate to the southeast United States and begin their winter residency."
What's the goal of Expedition Southeast?
Along with 41 collaborators from 28 research institutions, Ocearch will help scientists "collect data to support 24 science projects to 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."
Expedition Southeast is timed specifically to learn more about the western North Atlantic white sharks.
"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," said Dr. Bob Hueter, OCEARCH senior science and academic adviser.
"The work will be exciting but challenging, and each and every shark our science team is able to study will be pure gold.”
Expedition Southeast starting and stopping points
Expedition Southeast will depart from Jacksonville Nov. 27.
Final docking will be in Morehead City, North Carolina, Dec. 15.
Follow the team on social media on X, formerly known as Twitter @OCEARCH.
Where do white sharks like to go during winter?
OCEARCH data shows larger animals head toward waters off the continental shelf. Following that 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 used by white sharks 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,” said Dr. Harley Newton, OCEARCH chief scientist and veterinarian.
"This, coupled with the tumultuous weather this region faces this time of year, will make this expedition one of OCEARCH’s most challenging."
What is OCEARCH?
OCEARCH is a non-profit organization that conducts research on the ocean's giants.
Its 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."
The organization provides a free STEM education curriculum to help students learn STEM skills while promoting environmental awareness.
How many sharks has OCEARCH tagged?
OCEARCH’s Western North Atlantic White Shark Study is a comprehensive study of white sharks and includes a full health assessment of each shark, microbiological studies, movement, temperature and depth studies through the use of three different tags.
Ninety-two sharks have been studied. The OCEARCH team wants to reach a goal of 100 sharks to tag and sample in the western North Atlantic.
Female white sharkAndromachepinged far off the coast of Southwest Florida, just below Marco Island Nov. 7. She must have liked the area. OCEARCH tracks show Andromache checked out the sites around the Gulf of Mexico in 2022, swimming as far north as Destin.
In 2020 and 2021, she favored the east coast of Florida between Port St. Lucie and St. Augustine.
A ping means the shark's dorsal fin, to which a tag has been attached, broke the surface of the water long enough to transmit location information.
Andromache isn't the only white shark spotted off Florida this month.
Crystal pinged Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 near St. Augustine. OCEARCH tweeted the juvenile white shark was 10 feet long and weighed 460 pounds when she was tagged off North Carolina in March 2022.
This is the farthest south Crystal has pinged.
Want to track sharks? OCEARCH has a website for that
Every time a tagged shark breaks the surface, location data is transmitted and the shark's location is added to OCEARCH's map.
Some sharks even have their own Twitter handle.
One of the most famous was @Shark_Katharine.
The 1,800-pound shark, 14-foot great white shark last pinged in November 2020. She stole the hearts of many over the years as they tracked her journeys throughout the Atlantic Ocean or following her on social media for her sassy personality.
She was tagged off Cape Cod in August 2013, and her last ping was in November 2020.
According to OCEARCH, the average battery life of a SPOT-tagis about five years. After she pinged on October 2020, OCEARCH confirmed Katharine held the record for the longest a shark has been tracked in the Atlantic Ocean.
Katharine was famous along Florida's East Coast. In 2014, she pinged off the Sebastian Inlet on May 12, coming within a quarter-mile of the beach.
She spent most of the winter of 2017 and early 2018 off the East Coast of Florida and the Bahamas. She also pinged 9 miles southeast of the St. Lucie Inlet and wandered into the Gulf of Mexico.
Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
I am an expert and enthusiast-based assistant. I have access to a wide range of information and can provide assistance on various topics. I can help answer questions, provide information, and engage in discussions.
Regarding the concepts mentioned in this article, here is some information related to each concept:
OCEARCH is a non-profit organization that conducts research on the ocean's giants. Their mission is to return the world's oceans to balance and abundance through scientific research, education, outreach, and policy. They collaborate with individuals and organizations in the United States and abroad to achieve their goals. OCEARCH conducts ocean research expeditions to study marine animals, including sharks, and collects data to support various science projects .
Expedition Southeast is the 46th ocean research expedition conducted by OCEARCH. The goal of this expedition is to study white sharks as they migrate to the southeast United States and begin their winter residency. The expedition aims to collect data to support 24 science projects and gain a better understanding of the life history of white sharks in the Western North Atlantic Ocean. The focus will be on studying mature animals, particularly females, to understand their overwintering area, oceanographic features, diet resources, and reproductive cycle .
White sharks, including great white sharks, tiger sharks, and whale sharks, are frequent visitors in Florida waters, especially during their winter migration. They migrate south for the winter and can be found in coastal areas near North Florida, South Georgia, the Carolinas, as well as offshore areas closer to the continental shelf margin and the Gulf Stream. OCEARCH tracks and studies white sharks, aiming to understand their behavior, habitat preferences, feeding patterns, and migration patterns.
OCEARCH has conducted a comprehensive study of white sharks in the Western North Atlantic Ocean. As part of this study, they have tagged and studied 92 sharks. The tags used include SPOT-tags, which transmit location data whenever a tagged shark breaks the surface of the water. This data is used to track the sharks' movements and is added to OCEARCH's map. The organization aims to tag and sample 100 sharks in the western North Atlantic as part of their study.
OCEARCH provides a website where users can track tagged sharks. Every time a tagged shark breaks the surface, location data is transmitted, and the shark's location is added to OCEARCH's map. Some tagged sharks even have their own Twitter handles, allowing people to follow their journeys and learn more about their behavior and movements.
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