OCEARCH Great White Shark Expedition Jacksonville achieved success in the form of 14.5 ft., approximately 2,000 lb. mature female Great White Shark named “Lydia”. After enduring ten days of high winds and rough seas off the coast of Jacksonville, FL, the OCEARCH team caught and released on March 3 the first Great White Shark ever satellite tagged south of Cape Cod, MA.
“Capturing and releasing Lydia off Jacksonville, FL is a historic moment,” said Chris Fischer, OCEARCH Expedition Leader and Founding Chairman. “It’s a tribute to the tenacity and determination of a group of people willing to give everything to the future of our ocean. Thanks to Caterpillar’s support, once again we have opened a window into the life of one of the earth’s most mysterious creatures and have shared it with the world at no cost. Not only is capturing and releasing her historic, but sharing it with the world through our daily films and the OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker provides an opportunity for the entire planet to experience exploring with us.”
Caterpillar is sponsoring OCEARCH global expeditions for the next three years, bringing together top scientists from leading institutions in a collaborative environment focused on generating unprecedented data at a much faster rate than if each scientist and institution worked independently. The work performed on Lydia, for example, involves four different transmitter devices including a SPOT tag (real-time Satellite tag), pop-up satellite tag (data logger – temperature, depth and light levels), acoustic tag (local movement, requires receiver detection), and an accelerometry tag (3D fine scale movements/behavior). She also received an NMFS conventional tag (if shark is recaptured by others, provides contact information for reporting recapture). Lydia had seven additional studies performed during the approximately 15 minutes she was on the research platform. A science recap is attached.
Lydia was named after Lydia Moss Bradley, the founder of Bradley University, a long time friend of Caterpillar. Lydia’s travels will be documented and shared each time her fin surfaces long enough to transmit to the Global Shark Tracker satellite tracking system.
“When Lydia swam onto the OCEARCH’s lift, it was a beautiful sight,” said Bob Hueter, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Research and Director, Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory, and one of two chief scientists for the expedition. Dr. Hueter adds: “Her 14-foot-plus length and 8-1/2 foot girth gave the scientists a handful of great white shark! We performed just about every possible scientific test we could in 15 minutes. And then she swam away, carrying her four electronic tracking devices, heading out to sea and hopefully giving us new insights into the life cycle of this amazing ocean creature.”
Fellow expedition Jacksonville Chief scientist, Greg Skomal, Ph.D., from MA Marine Fisheries said: “The tagging and sampling of Lydia is another giant step forward with our efforts to study the white shark in the North Atlantic. We are a handful of scientists that have been given this incredible opportunity to sample for many so that we can shed light on this elusive species. I am extremely excited about what we accomplished today and I thank the OCEARCH team and Caterpillar for making it possible.”
Researchers working with Hueter and Skomal on the expedition include Nick Whitney, Ph.D, of Mote Marine Laboratory, Heather Marshall, University of Massachusetts, and researchers from the University of North Florida as well as research students from Jacksonville University. Additional collaborators include the College of Charleston, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Middle Tennessee State University, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Daily short-form videos documenting the entire expedition can be found at OCEARCH.org/expeditionblog. The video series is sponsored by Costa Sunglasses who has been a long-time supporter of OCEARCH and ocean conservation.