What are your objectives for this expedition?
The objective of the expedition is to gather data to further the understanding of the ecology, natural history, physiology, and behavior of white sharks in the Atlantic Ocean so that sound management policies can be enabled to enhance public safety and ocean conservation. Expedition data and outreach will evolve public education, specifically public perception and knowledge around sharks in their region’s waters as well as STEM Education in schools to ensure a new generation of ocean conservationists and STEM-educated students who might pursue marine science or other field requiring a STEM foundation.
How was Jacksonville, FL chosen for this next expedition?
Data collected from the Global Shark Tracker, from White Sharks Mary Lee, Lydia, and Katharine, has shown that northern Florida and Southern Georgia provide important overwintering habitat for Great White Sharks. OCEARCH is returning to Jacksonville, FL to build on these previous findings.
Who supports the expedition?
Costa Sunglasses, YETI Coolers, and Shell provide support for the expedition. Contender, SAFE Boats and Yamaha provide in-kind expedition support. Landry’s provides in-kind program development support for our STEM Education Curriculum built around OCEARCH expeditions and ocean conservation initiatives. A Discovery Education partnership provides 30M student access to the education program and content generated from expeditions.
Can you describe your process for tagging a shark?
Sharks are caught from tenders using handlines and are guided by hand in the water on and off the lift. After capture, sharks are brought to the submerged platform of the M/V OCEARCH vessel and the platform is raised. Once the sharks are restrained and hoses of water have been set to enable the flow of oxygen, they are measured. SPOT, acoustic and accelerometer tags are attached and tissue and blood samples are collected.
What samples will you collect from the sharks?
Once caught, the sharks will be measured, sexed, tissue will be collected (blood, muscle and fin clip) and the sharks will be tagged with satellite and acoustic transmitters. Small fin clips are removed with a pair of scissors, a muscle sample is removed from the flank with a 8mm biopsy punch and blood is taken from the caudal vein.
Will the sample collection and studies impact the shark’s health?
Scientific data from the accelerometers show that the animals recover and start swimming strongly within 2-4 hours after release. Data from the Global Shark Tracker also provides strong evidence that the animals tagged using this method show long-term survival and long-distance migrations indicative of normal function and reproductive cycles.
What studies will you run from the samples?
With the samples, we will run studies such as the examination of fine and broad-scale movements, habitat use, site fidelity, residency, and feeding behavior of white sharks; assessment of reproductive condition, reproductive cycle, gestation period, and fecundity of white sharks in the Atlantic Ocean.
What does the tracking data from the Global Shark Tracker tell us about sharks?
The data allows us to see the range of shark movements in different parts of the world - their migration patterns - and helps us uncover the areas in need of protection. The data we’ve enabled has allowed scientists to figure out the mating and breeding sites of the species on the west coast of Mexico – Guadalupe Island. Scientists have also documented the first migration of Great White Sharks to the gulf, and the mid-Atlantic ridge.
What happens to the data you’ve collected?
The data is shared in an open source environment with collaborating institutions that utilize it to conduct studies that are eventually published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The papers, which can take 2-5 years to publish, are used to assist in policy decisions.