OCEARCH Expedition Nova Scotia 2019

September – October 2019

OCEARCH set out in the fall of 2019 to conduct white shark research in a part of the world where it has never been done before in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Unlike anything else taking place in the world of research, OCEARCH launched a social media campaign to bring audiences on the adventure with the crew.

While scientists conducted groundbreaking research on white sharks off the coast of Nova Scotia, audiences were kept up to date on how the expedition was unfolding in real-time on social media. Millions of people were brought onto the research platform with the ocean’s apex predators via their smartphones and other devices for an up close look at the vital work being done to gather the essential data needed to protect our oceans.

Sharks are the balance keepers of the ocean and without them, the ocean ecosystem would fall apart. But data deficits have plagued efforts to enact responsible ocean management policies needed to protect them. OCEARCH’s unique approach to the problem focuses on collaboration and combines a team of premiere fishermen with top ocean scientists. The fishermen provide researchers unprecedented access to large sharks in order to gather data faster than ever before in order to erase the deficit.

An important piece of OCEARCH’s mission is to build a community and inspire its members to take pride in our oceans so that we can work together to protect them. To achieve this, OCEARCH focuses on building engaging content that not only entertains audiences but also educates them about the important science taking place. The entire Expedition Nova Scotia crew was dedicated to sending out real time updates about exactly how the expedition was progressing in order to bring the journey to peoples’ devices. Two-hundred posts across multiple platforms paid off as millions followed along both on social media and through the large news coverage of the expedition, including a visit to the ship from 60 Minutes..

Expedition Nova Scotia supported 18 individual research projects, empowering 32 scientists from 22 institutions. Along the way researchers were able to make groundbreaking observations never before seen in wild white sharks including motile sperm samples, beating hearts and fecal samples containing fur. These observations provide vital insight into white shark physiology to help researchers understand more about these important predators.

Today the journey continues on the OCEARCH Tracker. All 11 sharks equipped with satellite tracking devices, SPOT tags, during the expedition are up and pinging and have already traveled as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. Their movements will continue to create the vital data needed to enact healthy ocean management policies that will ensure healthy oceans for future generations.

Expedition Brief
OCEARCH is returning to Nova Scotia! Accompanied by a team of multidisciplinary researchers, OCEARCH will build off the momentum generated by a successful 2018 expedition to the province. Five of the six white sharks tagged during that expedition already returned to Nova Scotia, evidence that further suggests the Canadian Maritimes play an even more important role in the life history of Northwest Atlantic white sharks than previously believed. The team will travel from Cape Breton to Lunenburg, collecting samples for 17 research projects and looking for clues about how white sharks are utilizing the habitat.
Read Full Science Brief
2 Ways to Support the Expedition
Limited Edition Tees

For a limited time only we have special Expedition Nova Scotia Tees! All proceeds help fund the expedition. It’s your chance to wear your support.

Donation Page

Become a shark hero by making a one-time or monthly donation. Your contribution helps fund the expedition so that we can ensure future generations can have healthy oceans.


Sydney Ship Tours

Friday September 13

Times: 1pm, 2pm, 3 pm

Location: Port of Sydney
60 Esplanade
Sydney, NS B1P 1A1

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Sydney Seminar

Friday September 13

Time: 7pm

Location: 173 Charlotte St
173 Charlotte Street
Sydney, NS B1P 1C4

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Lunenburg Ship Tours

Saturday October 5

Times: 1pm, 2pm, 3pm

Location: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
68 Bluenose Drive
Lunenburg, NS B0J 2C0

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Lunenburg STEM Camp

Saturday October 5

Time: 9am

Location: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
68 Bluenose Drive
Lunenburg, NS B0J 2C0

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Lunenburg Seminar

Saturday October 5

Time: 2pm

Location: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
68 Bluenose Drive
Lunenburg, NS B0J 2C0

Sign Up

Lunenburg Seminar

Sunday October 6

Time: 2pm

Location: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
68 Bluenose Drive
Lunenburg, NS B0J 2C0

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What is the North Atlantic White Shark Study

This project began in 2012 and has been called the “North Atlantic White Shark Study”. The purpose of this project is to solve the life history puzzle of the North Atlantic White Shark by gathering the appropriate data that would tell us where this population breeds, feeds and gives birth. The way to do this is by tagging at least 10 sharks of each sex in three categories: juvenile, immature, and mature.

What type of studies do you expect to run during this expedition?

In order to determine foraging patterns, the team will need to not only tag animals (both male and females; adult and subadult), they will need to sample them as well.Tagging and sampling a large number of male and female sharks, with different life stages, in the same area is a great way to confirm that the NASFA is indeed a foraging area.

What type of samples do you expect to collect during this expedition?

All male and female sharks caught will be sampled. The team will collect blood, mucus, parasites, muscle, fin clips, eye measurements, feces, urine, and semen, whenever possible. Ultrasound exams also will be performed on adult females to confirm

Can you describe your process for tagging sharks?

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 and acoustic tags are attached. The tagging, handling and sampling procedures employed during the expedition follow the standards of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC.org) of each institution, which is made up of scientists and veterinarians.

Will the sample collection impact the sharks health?

While the tagging method, which has been used on sharks and other species for over a half-century may cause some level of brief discomfort, there is no scientific evidence that it impacts their behavior or survival post-release. In fact, data from the Global Shark Tracker 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 does the data from the OCEARCH 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 tracking data allows studies such as the examination of fine and broad-scale movements, habitat use, site fidelity, residency, and feeding behavior of white sharks. The data we’ve enabled so far 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. So far, there have been 22 papers published based on OCEARCH expeditions and resulting studies.

How can I follow the expedition?

Follow OCEARCH on​​ Facebook​,​ ​Twitter​, Instagram (@OCEARCH), and​ ​YouTube​ for Expedition NASFA updates.You can also follow the sharks tagged during the Nova Scotia Expedition by accessing the near-real-time, free online ​OCEARCH Tracker​.

Who supports the expedition?

Costa Sunglasses, SeaWorld, YETI Coolers, Southern Tide, Helly Hansen, and Contender support the expedition.

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