Great White Shark Tracked To Gulf Of Mexico

A news release from Mote Marine in Sarasota

A great white shark nicknamed “Betsy” and tagged for research off Cape Cod was swimming about 63 miles off Boca Grande, Fla., as of Friday, April 25.

The female shark was tagged by a team led by OCEARCH and including scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries during their August 2013 Expedition Cape Cod. Betsy was lifted out of the water by a special platform aboard the M/V OCEARCH, where the scientists had a unique opportunity to work with her. Dr. Nick Whitney of Mote tagged Betsy with a fine-scale motion sensor and Dr. Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries fitted her with a long-lasting satellite transmitter to monitor her position.

Then Betsy dropped off the radar, staying underwater where her satellite tag could not break the surface and signal her position to scientists. When she pinged in on Friday, April 25, Betsy became the first white shark from the OCEARCH-led expeditions in the Atlantic to be tracked into the Gulf.

“She had been really quiet — so it’s pretty exciting that we’re hearing from her satellite tag at all, let alone right around here,” said Whitney from Mote — an independent, nonprofit marine science institution based in Sarasota on Florida’s Gulf Coast. (Sarasota is north of Boca Grande, which is in Charlotte Harbor.)

The separate motion-sensing tag — called an accelerometer — that Whitney placed onto Betsy’s dorsal fin remains at sea. Originally programmed to track Betsy’s fine-scale movements for two weeks and then pop off so scientists could recover it, the tag stayed on for two months before floating to the surface in the northern Atlantic.

“If that tag washes up on the shores of, say, Ireland, it would be the largest data set in the history of shark accelerometry,” Whitney said, noting that the tag bears Mote’s contact information and could still be returned. Its data would reveal every tilt of Betsy’s body and every beat of her tail.

Both the satellite tracking and accelerometer data from great white sharks the team has tagged — including Lydia, the shark that recently crossed the mid-Atlantic ridge — have thrilled expedition leaders.

“Is Betsy a ground-breaking, data-generating rock star joining the ranks of Mary Lee, Lydia, Katharine and others?” said OCEARCH Expedition Leader Chris Fischer. “Keep watching, and we’ll all find out together.”

The public can watch for more pings from Betsy, along with other tagged great white sharks, on the OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker: www.ocearch.org

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