Ocearch tags great white shark of year off North Florida coast

Shark research expedition began last weekend in Jacksonville

By Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor, Mark Collins - Meteorologist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The research team aboard M/V Ocearch reported Saturday they have tagged their first white shark of a two-month expedition off the coast of Florida and Georgia.

A blood sample was taken from the 10-foot, 2-inch female great white shark ,which they named Miss May, since it was off the coast of Mayport. They attached a tracking device so the shark's movements will be tracked in real time whenever she surfaces. 

"It will be exciting to see where Miss May leads us," Ocearch posted on Facebook.

The research vessel was docked in downtown Jacksonville and available for tours Feb. 8-9, then set off to identify and track sharks in what is called the North Atlantic Shared Foraging Area between the coast and Gulf Stream.

Years of tracking data from satellite tags show all of the tagged large sharks migrate between Cape Canaveral, Florida, and North Carolina in the winter. The team hopes this season will be more successful tagging sharks compared to last season, when abnormally cold water and rough seas made for an elusive search.

The Ocearch expedition began in Jacksonville and will end March 2 in Savannah.

Twenty-five researchers are traveling aboard the research vessel, assessing shark health and mounting tracking devices to better understand the North Atlantic white shark.

Metals in the water can impact shark physiological processes. Assistant professor of marine science at Jacksonville University Dr. Bryan Frank will be aboard to capture shark samples from that could provide more information on how sharks deal with stress. 

This expedition is just the start of several in 2019. Other planned expeditions will head to Massachusetts and Nova Scotia.

Last year, Ocearch discovered a new hot spot off Nova Scotia when seven sharks were tagged in the cold, summer Canadian water. 

This second trip to the south shore of Nova Scotia will provide a clearer picture of white shark populations in an area previously not recognized as white shark habitat.

 

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