They may be the most captivating of sea creatures– and much about the lives of great white sharks is a mystery.
In September, biologist Greg Skomal went in search of answers– by attaching electronic tags to an astonishing five white sharks off Monomoy Island. “I was on pins and needles. I was nervous, because we’ve had these tags not work before.”
But this time, they’ve delivered big results — surfacing as scheduled and tracking the sharks’ thousand mile journey south. “It’s riveting information, really exciting for me as a researcher getting a glimpse into the life history of this really incredible animal,” Skomal said.
A map shows the path of the first shark, which included a 1,500 foot deep dive off the Carolina coast.
After the shark was tagged off the coast of Chatham in September, it hung around southern New England for a while.
The tracking data puts it about 40-miles off the coast of Nantucket until October, when it began to swim south, rapidly.
In November, the shark reached Virginia Beach. By December, it was off the shores of Jacksonville, which it must have found agreeable, since it only went as far as Daytona in January. It rarely strayed more than 60 miles off the coast.
The other two sharks are also swimming off the Florida coast.
Researchers don’t know what motivates that migratory shift between New England, where seals make a nice shark dinner, and points south. “Clearly the water temperatures were ideal for them through September. They decided to move on when something changed. Could be a cold snap, likely that was it, or a change in their feeding. But something made them move out,” said Skomal.
“Our objective in state government is to increase our understanding scientifically and give us tools to better manage this species as they enter the Commonwealth’s waters,” said Secretary Ian Bowles of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
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