A 15-foot white shark has been tracked down near the Bahamas, and researchers believe that the female may soon reveal the location of a Great White Shark nursery.
The shark, known as Unama’ki, is being tracked by the non-profit research organization OCEARCH, which monitors hundreds of marine animals – from whales to turtles – around the globe.
“When we first met Unama’ki, we knew she had the potential to lead us to a place where she could give birth. Today on the #OCEARCH Global #SharkTracker, she is in the Bahamas, about 50 miles northeast of Guana Cay on the edge of the Blake Escarpment,” the nonprofit said in a tweet on Friday.
OCEARCH researchers first caught and tagged Unama’ki – which weighs approximately 2,000 pounds – off the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, in September 2019.
Since then, the shark has travelled more than 12,500 miles, swam almost the entire length of the North American east coast, entered the Gulf of Mexico, penetrated deep into the Atlantic Ocean and advanced as far as Newfoundland before finally swimming south towards the Bahamas, where it was close to where it was on October 29th.
Researchers said it was “strange” that the Unama’ki made a journey similar to two other large, sexually mature female great whites known as Luna and Lydia.
“Could she be pregnant and move to a quieter area,” OCEARCH asked on Twitter. “We hope she will show us a new #Big White Shark nursery next spring or summer.
When we first met Unama’ki, we knew she had the potential to lead us to a place where she could give birth. Sheâs in the Bahamas undertook a similar journey, which 2 other mature female #white sharks, Luna & Lydia, also did curiously. Could she be pregnant and move to a quieter area? pic.twitter.com/tRr66uEnYf
– OCEARCH (@OCEARCH) October 30, 2020
Another shark, known as Mary Lee, was previously tracked on a long journey into the open ocean before returning to shore near Long Island where a nursery for great whites was found, OCEARCH founding chairman and expedition leader Chris Fischer told Tekk.tv earlier.
OCEARCH researchers locate sharks using SPOT tags (Smart Position and Temperature) attached to the tip of the shark’s first dorsal fin. The scientists receive an alarm known as a “ping” when an overhead tracking satellite detects the fin breaking through the water surface.
In addition to SPOT tags, OCEARCH researchers are trying to equip the sharks with both an acoustic tag and a Pop-off Archival Satellite Tag (PSAT.).
Acoustic tags record a shark’s location by communicating with receivers stationed on the ocean floor, while PSATs collect data on depth, temperature and light levels and automatically detach from the animal at a point between six months and a year.
Collecting this type of data while taking biological samples from the sharks they catch provides OCEARCH researchers with valuable new insights into these powerful predators.