OCEARCH expedition studies shark convergence off southeast coast

Shark expedition off the southeast Coast. [Photo courtesy OCEARCH]

Data from the shark-tracking nonprofit OCEARCH shows tagged white sharks ranging from adult to juvenile ages are converging right now in a region off the southeast coast from Cape Hatteras to Cape Canaveral, Florida.

OCEARCH and collaborating scientists refer to the area as the Northwest Atlantic Shared Foraging Area (NASFA). OCEARCH has returned to the heart of the region for its 37th expedition “to conduct our most advanced research yet of white sharks’ behavior, biology, health, and habitat usage,” the agency said in a news release.

The expedition, which concludes in Savannah, Georgia on Feb. 14, OCEARCH will collect biological samples to support 18 separate research projects led by 31 scientists from 22 institutions.

“This is going to be a very collaborative effort,” said Expedition NASFA 2020 Chief Scientist Dr. Kim Ritchie, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina at Beaufort. “We’re going to have scientists with a diverse range of expertise on this ship together. We’ll be able to combine expertise so that we can start answering more complex questions than ever before about these important predators. It’s really exciting.”

“This research expedition is so important because we suspect nearly all white sharks in the Northwest Atlantic utilize this NASFA region during the winter and early spring months,” said OCEARCH founding chairman and expedition leader Chris Fischer.

Last year’s expedition to the NASFA region resulted in four tagged white sharks, including Brunswick, who became the first shark on the OCEARCH Tracker to travel to northern New Brunswick, Canada. White sharks Lydia and Hilton were both tagged on earlier expeditions in the NASFA region and were instrumental in revealing Nova Scotia as an important white shark aggregation site during the fall. Additionally, new data analysis shows inflammatory markers in some white shark blood samples taken in the NASFA region that are not present in sharks tagged farther north. Researchers will look for additional clues about what could be causing these stress indicators.

“Each time we come to this part of the world, the scientific discoveries we make are remarkable. We wouldn’t be able to make breakthroughs such as learning to look for white sharks in Canada if we didn’t work here first or if we focused all of our work in just one small area,” said Fischer.

White sharks tagged on this expedition will be added to OCEARCH’s brand new Shark Tracker App, which allows audiences to follow tagged sharks and other marine animals in near real-time. The new app is now available for free in both the Apple Store and Google Play for all mobile devices. Additionally, OCEARCH will keep audiences up to date on the latest expedition developments both on the new app and across all of its social media channels. Everyone is encouraged to follow along!

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.