One Less Reason to Fear Great White Sharks

Creatures swim farther and deeper than previously thought
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2017 7:23 AM CDT
One Less Reason to Fear Great White Sharks
In this Sept. 13, 2012 file photo, Massachusetts shark expert Greg Skomal pulls the cap off a blood sample taken from an Atlantic great white shark.   (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

In what is probably good news for swimmers, new research shows great white sharks in the Atlantic Ocean swim deeper and farther out to sea than previously thought. Researchers on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, setting of the movie Jaws, say Atlantic great whites were previously thought to be coastal huggers who migrated from Maine to Mexico, lead author Gregory Skomal tells the AP. But a study that tracked 32 sharks by satellite tag for five years found the creatures swam as far as the Azores, some 2,300 miles away. Thought to be surface dwellers, the sharks in fact dive to depths of 3,700 feet, though why they do that is a mystery. "When they’re out there, they’re kind of wandering, almost nomadic in behavior,” Skomal tells the Boston Globe.

Writing in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, Skomal's team say the results dash assumptions the sharks follow a set migration pattern. Although they stayed close to the northeast coast in summer, their whereabouts the rest of the year were not confined, as expected, to heading south to warmer waters. Skomal tells the Globe younger sharks tended to stay closer to shore but would likely venture out as they got older. The findings could lead to increased protections for great whites, such as extending the 200-mile safe zone around the US coast in which it is illegal to hunt them. "We need to engage other countries fishing in these waters to talk about putting similar protections in place," Skomal tells the AP. (The "luckiest guy on earth" escaped a tussle with a great white.)

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