White Sharks Swim South to Florida In the Winter

White sharks in Florida?  I used to answer this question with a quip: “maybe at the Jaws cruise in Universal Studios.” (Oh teachers and their sense of humor.) These big predators aren’t exactly the most common of finds off of our coastlines if you go by what is popularly known of them from most news reports and the documentaries on television.  Nope, when I think of white sharks, I think of chillier zones often hosting tasty marine mammals like the rookeries of fur seals off of South Africa or southern California.

And yet, according to some of the newest tracking studies, it would seem that great whites certainly do patrol a stretch of Florida’s northern Atlantic coastline.  Three tagged sharks made a determined movement from southern New England’s rich grounds in late September, following the shelf through to North Carolina waters by October and finally arriving off of Jacksonville, Florida’s beaches in early December.  The sharks stayed on, wintering in the south, until their tags popped loose and the study concluded.

This study encourages a slew of questions of course: why are they migrating?  Are they following a food source?  How long do they stay in Florida?  Do they reverse their course and return to New England directly or is there another leg to this journey that we haven’t yet seen?  What triggers them to start their southern trip?

The food source question is one of the more intriguing ones for me.  There aren’t exactly large rookeries full of delicious sea lion or seal pups in Florida any longer but there are species of whale that migrate through these same areas on a mission to give birth in warmer waters.  There have definitely been reports of white sharks feeding on Northern right whale carcasses.  It makes you wonder if the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins aren’t the only escorts a right whale might see while cruising off of Florida’s beaches.