AP NEWS

Sharks tagged off US south; uncovered Canada spot in 2017

March 5, 2019

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — After tagging four great white sharks off Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, researchers say they hope to learn more about the creatures’ movements throughout the year in the north Atlantic.

The Savannah Morning News and The Florida Times-Union report that the great whites, along with four tiger sharks, were recently caught and released during an expedition by research nonprofit Ocearch. The fishing trip started in Jacksonville, Florida, and finished Thursday in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Years ago, an adult great white from the same area off South Carolina led scientists to a previously unknown mating spot in Nova Scotia, Canada. Researchers hope these more recent catch-and-release subjects can help solve more puzzles about sharks in the north Atlantic.

Tagging just one great white would’ve been considered a success, researchers said.

Ten-foot (3-meter) Miss May was the first great white caught, on Feb. 15 roughly 40 miles (64 kilometers) off Jacksonville. Twelve-footers (3.7-meters) Caroline and Helena were tagged off Hilton Head Island.

A shark dubbed Brunswick, nearly 9 feet (2.7 meters) long, was caught and released last week near Hilton Head Island by the Ocearch team.

Ocearch founder Chris Fischer named Brunswick after the coastal Georgia city where the organization’s vessel has docked the last few winters and where locals have been welcoming, even bringing the crew home-cooked meals.

In 2017, an adult great white named Hilton was tagged in the same area and that led to the discovery of the Nova Scotia spot, Fischer said. Since then, researchers have seen tagged sharks go around Key West, then back up to the U.S. Northeast or Canada, he said.

“He’s a cute little guy. He doesn’t even have any battle scars yet,” Fischer said of Brunswick. Kim Ritchie, associate professor at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, had scraped plastic vials along the shark’s skin to collect bacterial samples.

Sharks heal quickly and Ritchie’s research is focused on isolating the beneficial bacteria that help. She already has found bacteria on sharks that inhibit the growth of a spectrum of other bacteria, including one that causes infections in humans.

Her research is one of 17 projects collecting data from Ocearch’s trip. Bryan Franks, assistant professor at Jacksonville University, was the chief scientist aboard.

Franks said Ocearch’s tracking has helped clearly establish that great whites spend summers up north and swim down south for winter. As for the four recently marked, Franks said they could head toward, “Cape Cod? Canada? Or maybe they go somewhere else we just don’t know about.”

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Information from: Savannah Morning News, http://www.savannahnow.com

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