UNF to better track sharks

Published On: Jan 13 2014 10:04:15 AM EST   Updated On: Jan 13 2014 11:20:34 AM EST

New ways to track shark movement off the coast of Florida.


In recent years, we’ve learned of several Great White Sharks off the coast of Jacksonville.

Thanks to increasing modern technology, we’re even able to now track every move some sharks make.

This topic was huge locally in 2013, when OCEARCH reported that two Great White sharks had made their way to the Jacksonville area.

Now, researchers at the University of North Florida are taking their studies one step further.

The latest tracking technology that UNF researchers are going to deploy within the next few weeks, will allow them to document the whereabouts of the five Great Whites tagged by OCEARCH, but also more than 20 other sharks that were tagged off of Cape Cod.

In January of 2013, two Great White Sharks, Genie and Mary Lee were found exploring Jacksonville waters. In fact, 16-foot Mary Lee came within the surf zone at Jax beach. These sharks are tagged with real-time satellite tracking devices by OCEARCH, which has now tagged five sharks including one captured just a mile off Mayport.

But there are a couple dozen other Great Whites tagged with another type of equipment.

“Those tags are very similar to these that are basically acoustic transmitters so they send an ultra-sonic signal, and if we have an acoustic receiver such as this placed under water and the animal comes within a given radius of that receiver, this receiver will detect and decode that information,” said UNF shark expert, Dr. Jim Gelsleichter.

The University of North Florida’s Shark Biology Program recently received a $10,000 grant to place the acoustic listening stations near shore to track white sharks off our coast.

“We have already placed these out at off shore dive sights off of Jacksonville and we’ve been capable even within the first month of putting them out there, to detect two of the sharks that were originally tagged off of Chatham, Massachussetts," said Dr. Gelsleichter.

When a shark swims near or past one of the listening stations, the data will be recorded and eventually retrieved by the researchers.

“We do want to know why they’re here hopefully how many are here, how long do they stay, what do they do when they’re here? Are they here to feed? And what are they feeding on? So this is just one more piece of that puzzle,” said Dr. Gelsleichter.

They expect to place the receivers in the next few weeks likely off Nassau Sound and the entrance to the St. Johns River.


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