TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A great white shark has been located off the coast of Florida and is making her way through the Middle Keys in what appears to be “snowbird”-like travels.
It’s believed she could be headed toward the Tampa Bay area.
“Sable” the great white shark was tagged by OCEARCH scientists on Sept. 13, 2021 in the waters of Ironbound Island, Nova Scotia.
“She was named ‘Sable’ after the Sable Island National Park Reserve, located approximately 180 miles offshore of Halifax, Nova Scotia, near where she was tagged,” OCEARCH said on its website.
She was then a juvenile, estimated to be 11.5 feet long and 807 pounds.
Chief Scientist of OCEARCH, Dr. Robert Hueter, was on the expedition when the shark was tagged. He explained how the careful process worked.
“With OCEARCH, we have a unique situation with a fishing crew that knows how to catch these animals and gently lead them to a platform we have on the ship. Where we can get on and work on the animal safely for the animal and safely for us,” he said.
Dr. Hueter explained said it took them only 15 minutes to do 24 different projects on the shark, from collecting blood samples to attaching Sable’s tracking tags.
“And Sable did great. It was only about a 45-minute process from when she was first caught to when we released her. And since then, she’s traveled, approaching 3,000 miles all the way from Novia Scotia,” Dr. Hueter said.
“Pinging” works when the device attached to sharks like Sable send a radio transmission to a satellite system. That happens when a shark comes to the surface, which Dr. Hueter said white sharks do pretty regularly, despite not having to breathe air.
Data from the “ping” is transferred from the satellite back to the OCEARCH laboratory, where it is shown on their website in real time for the public to see as well.
Sable last “pinged” around 9 p.m. on Tuesday near the Florida Keys.
Dr. Hueter explained great white sharks visiting Florida in the wintertime is not uncommon, and Sable is still on the move.
“Right now, Sable is down in the Middle Keys, about 20 miles offshore, making her way through the Gulf Stream. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up here, just off of Tampa Bay, but probably pretty far out. Probably 50 miles out or more,” he said.
Dr. Hueter notes that Florida’s great white shark visitors are not a threat. They do not come close to the beaches, as there are no seals to hunt.
“People do not have to worry. People should rejoice that the white sharks are beginning to return,” he said. “Their numbers are beginning to come back up after many years of declines and our worries about the disruption to the marine ecosystem. They’re coming back.”
OCEARCH has trackers they hope will last for five years on over 83 sharks of different species. Dr. Hueter is hopeful Sable will continue to transmit information on her location for their research.
“So watching her over the next, another four years, we hope, will perhaps take her into adulthood and maybe we’ll see where she mates. Where these animals are mating is the final piece of the puzzle that we’re trying to drop in,” he said.
Those interested in tracking Sable, as well as OCEARCH’s many other tagged sharks, can see where they ping and when online.