Nukumi, a 17ft and 3,541lb female white shark, is officially transatlantic after crossing the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and entering Northeastern Atlantic waters.
OCEARCH first met Nukumi (pronounced noo-goo-mee) in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in October of 2020 and she has since traveled 5,570 miles down the eastern United States and then out to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Nukumi, who has been coined “Queen of the Ocean” is the largest white shark tagged by OCEARCH to date in the Northwest Atlantic. Researchers believe she is over 50 years old and her immense scars mark her decades in the ocean.
Nukumi’s movements have been studied using the OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker. A Smart Position and Temperature (SPOT) tag was mounted on Nukumi’s dorsal fin when she was sampled and tagged by OCEARCH last October. This SPOT tag utilizes satellites to send Nukumi’s location every time she reaches the surface.
OCEARCH’s Global Shark Tracker shows that Nukumi headed farther offshore after leaving the Carolinas region in February and has now officially left the Northwest Atlantic and entered the Northeast Atlantic. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the fracture zone running north and south down the middle of the Atlantic, dividing its western and eastern halves. Migratory species including white sharks rarely cross the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, leaving one side of the Atlantic and entering another.
The only other white shark tracked by OCEARCH to do this was another mature female, Lydia, who traveled across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in April of 2014. However, unlike Nukumi’s route, when Lydia traveled towards the Mid-Atlantic Ridge she started her journey offshore farther north after leaving the Newfoundland, Canada region. Lydia then traveled south across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, before heading back to the Northwest Atlantic towards Georgia in May of 2014.
“Only the most highly migratory fishes, like bluefin tunas, blue sharks, and shortfin makos, cross between the western and eastern Atlantic. For Nukumi to reach the Ridge and then move past it, she had to travel about 2,000 nautical miles from the North Carolina coast, which she left around February 22. So in 45 days, swimming about 44 miles per day, our Queen of the Ocean has shown us what only one other OCEARCH-tagged white shark, Lydia, has done: connect west with east in the North Atlantic. This is significant not just for these individual sharks, but for the entire species. It will be tremendously exciting to see where she goes next, with her SPOT tag capable of giving us about 4½ more years of her epic journey!”
-OCEARCH Chief Scientist Dr. Bob Hueter.
It will be exciting to see what Nukumi does next. Will she continue east across the Atlantic? Will she head south or north next? Will she stay near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, before heading back home to the Northwest Atlantic like Lydia? Only time will tell.
“Nukumi and other sharks like her are apex predators of the ocean. They manage the ocean system towards maximum abundance by helping balance fish stocks. Knowing these large females are spending significant time outside of US/Canadian waters demonstrates we must engage with the foreign fishing fleets throughout the North Atlantic. If our large sharks don’t thrive, there simply will be no food in our oceans for future generations,”
-Chris Fischer, OCEARCH Founder and Expedition Leader
OCEARCH will continue to follow Nukumi’s track closely and report findings on its social media platforms. You can follow along with Nukumi’s track using the free OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker app or online at ocearch.org/tracker.