Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Why Is a Large Group of Great White Sharks Forming off the Southeastern U.S. Coast?

Animals
Why Is a Large Group of Great White Sharks Forming off the Southeastern U.S. Coast?
Researchers are seen above tagging a shark named "Mary Lee" in 2018. Recently scientists have spotted tagged great white sharks gathering on the Southeast U.S. coast. R. Snow / OCEARCH / CC BY 2.0

In recent weeks, scientists have spotted more than a half-dozen great white sharks gathering in Atlantic waters off the coast of the southeastern seaboard.


OCEARCH, a nonprofit organization tracking marine animals along the U.S. East Coast and beyond, shared their latest oceanic data showing at least ten white sharks seemingly on top of each other in Atlantic waters off the border of North and South Carolinas.

"What do you think could be causing this big gap in where white sharks are pinging right now?" the organization queried in a Facebook post. "There are pings in the Gulf of Mexico and then a big grouping in North Carolina/South Carolina but none in the middle."

Social media users offered a variety of responses – perhaps early algal blooms may be affecting the animals' ability to find food or maybe the fish are drawn in by a "huge annual congregation of bait and tunas."

In actuality, the continental shelf waters off of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and the east coast of Florida are a "winter hot spot for large white sharks" avoiding colder waters. In the last week, at least eight white sharks were detected in NASFA waters, including two adults named Hilton and Katharine. This area has seen the highest concentration of detections, lending more information about the animals' mysterious life history in the Northwest Atlantic.

"The heavy concentration of our adult and near-adult white sharks in this region suggests it's an important winter habitat, which OCEARCH and collaborating scientists are now referring to as the Northwest Atlantic Shared Foraging Area (NASFA)," OCEARCH said, adding that the team began studying sharks in this region in 2012.

The researchers add that Atlantic white sharks migrating to the NASFA is somewhat similar to those in Pacific waters who migrate from California's Farallon Islands and Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico to a Shared Foraging Area (SOFA) collectively known as the "White Shark Café" between the Baja Peninsula and Hawaii. It is unclear what white sharks do once they reach their deep-water destination, but previous research has suggested that a combination of feeding and reproduction takes place, as was previously reported by NPR.

"The body of colder water trapped between the Gulf Stream and the coast is a key feature of this region," Dr. Bryan Franks, OCEARCH collaborating scientist and assistant professor of marine science at Jacksonville University, said. "This 'wedge' of cold water extends from the Outer Banks in North Carolina down to Cape Canaveral in Florida. This feature results in a range of water temperatures in a relatively short horizontal distance from the coast out to the Gulf Stream. In addition, there is the potential for abundant prey in the migrating populations along the coastlines and in the dynamic mixing zone on the Stream edge."

White sharks (Carcharodon Carcharias) are listed as "vulnerable" under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Species. Little is known about the Jaws star, whose population levels declined in the years following negative media attention surrounding its "maneater" reputation and years of trophy hunting. OCEARCH announced it will be launching a February expedition to investigate in greater detail the behavior and life history of sharks in the NAFSA.

A grim new assessment of the world's flora and fungi has found that two-fifths of its species are at risk of extinction as humans encroach on the natural world, as The Guardian reported. That puts the number of species at risk near 140,000.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Flowers like bladderwort have changed their UV pigment levels in response to the climate crisis. Jean and Fred / CC BY 2.0

As human activity transforms the atmosphere, flowers are changing their colors.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A factory in Newark, N.J. emits smoke in the shadow of NYC on January 18, 2018. Kena Betancur / VIEWpress / Corbis / Getty Images

By Sharon Zhang

Back in March, when the pandemic had just planted its roots in the U.S., President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something devastating: The agency was to indefinitely and cruelly suspend environmental rule enforcement. The EPA complied, and for just under half a year, it provided over 3,000 waivers that granted facilities clemency from state-level environmental rule compliance.

Read More Show Less
A meteoroid skims the earth's atmosphere on Sept. 22, 2020. European Space Agency

A rare celestial event was caught on camera last week when a meteoroid "bounced" off Earth's atmosphere and veered back into space.

Read More Show Less
A captive elephant is seen at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Littlebourne, England. Suvodeb Banerjee / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Bob Jacobs

Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch