Expedition 24 – Looking for a Great White!
by: Davis Yancy Clegg
The list of species that determines the prioritization of threatened, or endangered is not a short one. With an unfortunate stroke of irony, the list of organizations that are able to effect a real change in the management and protection of these species is, however, quite short. With humans scratching out the population at a rate of 100 million per year, our friends of the deep are in dire need of a serious boost in awareness and protection. With factors such as bycatch and overfishing doing so much damage to the population, it’s imperative we gain a better understanding of the reproduction and migratory patterns which sharks exhibit.
Awareness is growing and the field is gaining momentum. Action-driven academics like Dr. Jim Gelsleichter, Director of the University of North Florida Shark Biology program, and non-profit organizations like OCEARCH. Through innovative measures, OCEARCH has come to inspire students, scientists, and stewards of the ocean worldwide. One of the most attractive features the site offers is OCEARCH’s Global Shark Tracker. Visit their page at www.ocearch.org, and try out the tracker for yourself. Locations of tagged sharks are updated to the tracker in real time. Now, researchers can take advantage of an exponentially more informative perspective to aid in studying the migratory pattern of great whites. Currently, the majority of research and all expeditions carried out by the non-profit are primarily geared towards great white sharks. However less often, other large Apex predators are also viable candidates for research. After catching wind of the strides being made a requested interview with Dr. Gelsleichter unveiled mounds of knowledge and one dumbfounding realization. Jim and his crew aboard each tagging expedition are doing unprecedented work in their field. And when dealing with great white sharks, the field is likely to be an unforgiving one. Without reservation, Gelsleichter is hopeful this will be a long awaited definitive expedition that will yield the opportunity for a historic first, a successful great white ultrasound. His high hopes for Expedition 24 (currently underway) and his unyielding resolve to protect marine life comes through in every word.
Yancy Clegg: “Given the means at hand that come with your aligned interests with OCEARCH, what will be the main focus and ultimate goal on this expedition?”
Dr. Gelsleichter: “We hope to catch a great white, first. The ultimate goal is to successfully perform an ultrasound. As of yet, there has been no instance of an ultrasound being recorded on a shark.”
Any Scientific venture is subject to an array of variables. With no given day, comes any certainty. Variables are always going to determine the success of any experiment. One’s ability to adapt is a talent above many others. Looking to the light, Dr. Gelsleichter experience and resolve are equal to the task.
Yancy Clegg: “For those following your research and for the general public, are there any continuous thoughts you would encourage an observer to keep in mind as each expedition plays out?”
Dr. Gelsleichter: “Absolutely. All of the information and data that we obtain is geared towards the management and observation of the sharks. Also, Shark’s – while they are very charismatic – are actually quite skittish.”
Skittish behavior is just about the very last thing you want going on when you’re in the water with – what might as well be – a 2300 lb. set of teeth. You can imagine, this would make the sharks very difficult to successfully retrieve. This alerted state and unpredictable sort of behavior means the shark is in full predator mode set off by an audibly detected heartbeat that closely resembles shark’s preferred diet.
“Using data on shark catches, discards, and mortality rates worldwide, researchers estimated that approximately 100 million are killed each year by humans.” That statement made by IFLScience was, in their words, “a conservative estimate.” The real number could be upwards of 273 million. Similar numbers have been confirmed by National Geographic. It is from the data gained through compiled research of scientists like Dr. Jim Gelsleichter that will lead to the protection and accurate mapping of marine migratory patterns. The result, a safer ocean for both humans and sharks alike.
You never know when you might see Lydia the Great White Shark in our area.
Join one of our River Cruises and you certainly will see a lot of dolphins, and who knows … maybe a great white.