Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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.

An Amazon.com Inc. worker walks past a row of vans outside a distribution facility on Feb. 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California. PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Xiulin Ruan, a Purdue University professor of mechanical engineering, holds up his lab's sample of the whitest paint on record. Purdue University / Jared Pike

Scientists at the University of Purdue have developed the whitest and coolest paint on record.

Read More Show Less
Trending

Less than three years after California governor Jerry Brown said the state would launch "our own damn satellite" to track pollution in the face of the Trump administration's climate denial, California, NASA, and a constellation of private companies, nonprofits, and foundations are teaming up to do just that.

Read More Show Less
The Biden administration needs to act quickly to reduce carbon emissions. Andrew Merry / Getty Images

By Jeff Goodell

The Earth's climate has always been a work in progress. In the 4.5 billion years the planet has been spinning around the sun, ice ages have come and gone, interrupted by epochs of intense heat. The highest mountain range in Texas was once an underwater reef. Camels wandered in evergreen forests in the Arctic. Then a few million years later, 400 feet of ice formed over what is now New York City. But amid this geologic mayhem, humans have gotten lucky. For the past 10,000 years, virtually the entire stretch of human civilization, people have lived in what scientists call "a Goldilocks climate" — not too hot, not too cold, just right.

Read More Show Less
Researchers suggest reintroducing species, such as the forest elephant in the Congo Basin, pictured, as a way to help restore biodiversity. guenterguni / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Ecologists and environmental advocates on Thursday called for swift action to reintroduce species into the wild as scientists at the University of Cambridge in England found that 97% of the planet's land area no longer qualifies as ecologically intact.

"Conservation is simply not enough anymore," said financier and activist Ben Goldsmith. "We need restoration."

Read More Show Less