Florida Sharks Migration Close Beaches During Spring Break, Researchers Tag Great White For Research [VIDEO]

By Staff Reporter on March 7, 2013 7:18 PM EST

Great White Shark
Great White Shark (Photo: Creative Commons)

Thousands of sharks migrated to Florida this week, swarming the state's southern peninsula to dramatic effect. Numerous beaches were closed to keep South Florida swimmers out of the water.

Florida Atlantic University graduate student Shari Tellman has been researching the shark migration via aerial footage shot twice a week. Tellman is tasked to manually count the number of dark shadows, each indicating a shark, caught on film.

“In the height of February we are looking at 11 to 14,000 per survey. That’s a lot of sharks.”

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The sharks are identified as blacktip and spinner sharks, both of which are species that return to the southern coast of Florida as a part of their seasonal migration. Both blacktip and spinner sharks grow to an average length of approximately 6 feet long and both do not pose a significant threat to swimmers as shark attack reports are extremely low. That said, blacktop shark attacks have been previously reported and its size and speed commands respect. Swimmers are advised to keep a safe distance from the sharks and to stay out of the water during migration. That said, not all swimmers abide by the rules.

“If you are looking at swimmers along the beach line and you look at pictures of these sharks, the sharks are right there," Tellman said, pointing to the monitor. "These swimmers may or may not know that. But if they did they probably wouldn’t be in the water.”

In a separate event, researchers of the scientific group Ocearch in Florida have finally managed to capture, tag, and free a great white shark for the very first time. The great white shark will be tracked and studied via satellites.

The great white subject is 14 feet long, weighing approximately 2,000 pounds. The group captured the shark off the coast of Jacksonville on Sunday. Scientists took blood and tissue samples from the animal before release it back into the Atlantic.

Four tracking devices in total are installed on the great white shark. Researchers hope to learn more about the great white shark in order to understand their mating habits and ensure the protection of the species and its future.

"We don't know exactly when and where they mate or where their nursery is, those areas where they're vulnerable," Dr. Nick Whitney, of Ocearch, told Fox 13 News. So we have to solve the puzzle of their lives so we can insure their future, because there's no robust path forward for the ocean without lots of sharks in it."

Be sure to take a look at the great shark migration in the southern coast Florida below:

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