She’s still growing, but great white shark “Miss May” is already impressively large. And this week, she’s been swimming off the coast of Volusia and Flagler counties.
A week into a month-long expedition to tag white sharks off the North Florida and South Georgia coasts, the OCEARCH crew initially tagged the 10-foot Miss May near Mayport, Florida. The town in located near the mouth of the St. Johns River east of Jacksonville.
By Monday, two days after being tagged, Miss May “pinged” 15 miles off Flagler Beach, according to the OCEARCH shark tracking website. The sub-adult great white shark continued to swim south and southeast and has pinged off Ormond Beach, Port Orange and Canaveral National Seashore.
Her latest ping was Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. off Canaveral National Seashore. A “ping” occurs from the tag on the shark’s dorsal fin when it breaks the surface of the water and transmits a signal to a satellite, which in turn provides an estimated geo-location.
Miss May was obviously named after Mayport, where OCEARCH and Jacksonville University plan a joint research facility, OCEARCH wrote in a Facebook post this week.
This latest OCEARCH expedition is dubbed “Expedition NASFA,” short of the North Atlantic Shark Foraging Area, which includes the region off the coasts of Florida and Georgia. It began Feb. 8 and ends March 3.
More than two dozen scientists from more than a half dozen institutions are participating in research during the expedition.
Evidence gathered by the tagging program suggests the region is important habitat for the sharks in the winter, according to OCEARCH and its collaborating researchers.
Since the tagging program began in 2012, OCEARCH has found many sharks move through the region during some point of their migrations. One researcher, Bryan Franks, an assistant professor at Jacksonville University, said a zone of colder water trapped between the Gulf Stream and the coast is “a key feature” of the region.
At least eight tagged sharks have pinged off the coast this winter, including Katharine, Miss Costa, Luna, and Hilton. Jane, a shark tagged off Nova Scotia last fall, pinged Tuesday off Fernandina Beach.
Wildlife biologists monitoring the right whale population also have seen sharks from the air this winter.
To follow the sharks’ movements, visit OCEARCH.org