OCEARCH and its team of collaborating scientists, including Dr. Robert Hueter, Director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory, have returned from a three-week expedition to tag great white sharks and other species of large sharks.
The expedition ran from Feb. 22 - March 15 in waters off South Carolina and Georgia and the crew tagged two white sharks and two tiger sharks with satellite tags that track the sharks’ locations and send data back to scientists when the sharks’ dorsal fins break the water’s surface.
Hueter was on board from Feb. 26 – March 5.
The first shark tagged during the Lowcountry research expedition was Hilton, a 1,326-pound, 12.5-foot, mature male great white shark named after the community in Hilton Head Island.
The second shark tagged was Weimar, a 304-pound, 9.4-foot mature male tiger shark named after OCEARCH’s long time supporter, Ruth Weimar. Weimar generously welcomed OCEARCH and helped coordinate education outreach efforts, reaching more than 4,000 students from various schools and organizations, in Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia, on and off the M/V OCEARCH vessel.
The third shark tagged was Savannah, an 8.5-foot, 460-pound immature female great white. Savannah was named to celebrate the people of Savannah, Georgia. The OCEARCH team was humbled by their hospitality and passion for the ocean.
The fourth shark tagged was Beaufort, an immature male tiger shark just over 100 pounds and 5.5 feet long.
The scientists took measurements, collected multiple biological samples and conducted health assessments of the three sharks briefly raised out of the water on the special hydraulic lift of the M/V OCEARCH.
All four sharks were satellite-tagged. You can follow them by accessing the near-real time, free online Global Shark Tracker or by downloading the Global Shark Tracker App available for Apple and Android platforms.
The goal of this expedition was to gather data on the ecology, physiology and behavior of sharks in the North Atlantic Ocean, and to increase the sample size of the great white shark research started in 2012 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
“Particularly fascinating was our capture, sampling and tagging of Hilton, a mature male white shark who had motile sperm ready for fertilization of a female’s eggs,” Hueter said. “Finding a male white shark ready to mate off South Carolina in winter goes against our concept of when and where these sharks mate. This is what makes this work so important, the discovery of new knowledge and disproving some old ideas about the life cycle of these sharks.”
This was OCEARCH's 28th expedition and first of 2017.
“It’s the first time we’ve tagged a great white shark and a tiger shark on the same day, in the same location,” said Chris Fischer, OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader. “It is so interesting that we found a cooler water, more coastal predator – the white shark – and a warmer water, more offshore predator – the tiger shark – sharing the same space.”
The expedition included collaborations with scientists from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Mote Marine Laboratory, University of North Florida, Adventure Aquarium, Georgia Aquarium, Georgia Southern, University of South Florida, University of South Carolina-Beaufort, WCS’ New York Aquarium, University of Massachusetts, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Auburn University and College of Charleston.