Close Encounters Man vs. Nature

Scientists tag 2,000-pound white shark off Florida

Great white is caught, released near popular surf spot

Whitesharkjacksonville
Florida surfers who ride waves at Mayport Poles might find this news a little unsettling, but scientists sure were delighted to have tagged and released a large great white shark Sunday afternoon immediately beyond the popular surf spot, in only 25 feet of water.

It’s the first time a great white has been tagged in the Jacksonville area, Chris Fisher, founder of Ocearch, told the Florida Times-Union. Mayport Poles is named after the nearby Mayport Naval Station.

The shark measured 14 feet, 6 inches, and weighed 2,000 pounds. It was given the name Lydia and, after its tag was fitted and tissue samples and a blood work were taken, the shark was lowered from the research vessel’s tagging cradle and turned loose.

Ocearch stated on its Facebok page: “After days of relentless determination, the OCEARCH team was able to successfully tag and release the first great white shark off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. Meet Lydia, weighing in at approx. 2,000 lbs at 14 ft, 6 in!”

The same researchers tagged a much larger great white, weighing nearly 3,500 pounds, last September off Cape Cod. That shark, named Mary Lee, appeared close to the Jacksonville coast last January and is presently much farther offshore, southwest of Bermuda.

It’s hoped that the long-term tracking study will enable scientists to learn more about the movements of white sharks off the East Coast.

Of Lydia’s close proximity to shore Sunday, Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries told the Times-Union: “These sharks have probably been doing this for eons.”

Skomal, who is part of the Ocearch effort, added that despite the great white’s fearsome reputation, “the sharks have been pretty much going undetected.”

People can check on the movements of sharks tagged by Ocearch via its website, and receive updates via its Facebook page. They can read more about the capture of Lydia via the expedition blog.

–Images showing the shark during Sunday’s tagging process are courtesy of Ocearch

–Find Pete Thomas on Facebook

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