9-foot great white shark starts journey north, pings off St. George Island, Florida (2024)

A 9-foot great white shark popped up off the St. George Island coast Monday.

Tagged by the nonprofit research group OCEARCH, the shark's pings show it spent the winter around Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico, traveling as far west in the Gulf as Louisiana.

A ping means the satellite tag attached to the shark's dorsal fin surfaced long enough to send location information to trackers.

The male shark, nicknamed Keji by OCEARCH, pinged far off St. George Island at 12:07 p.m. after previously pinging off Port Fourchon, Louisiana on April 11.

According to his tracker, Keji arrived in Florida in November, first pingingsoutheast of St. Augustine on Nov. 30,thennear the Florida Keys on Dec. 13, off Marco Island's coastFeb. 4andFeb. 16, and Panama City Beach March 15.

North Atlantic white sharks are known to migrate south from the waters around New England and Canada during winter, in search of warmer waters and more abundant food sources.

Keji appears to have started its journey north to return to the waters around Nova Scotia, a trip the animal is making for the third time times since being tagged in September 2021 off Ironbound Island.

Here's what to know about Keji, the nonprofit group OCEARCH and great white sharks in Florida:

More about OCEARCH great white shark Keji

9-foot great white shark starts journey north, pings off St. George Island, Florida (1)

Keji was tagged by OCEARCH near Ironbound Island Nova Scotia on Sept. 22, 2021. At the time, the male juvenile white shark measured 9 feet 7 inches and weighed in at 578 pounds.

Great white sharks can grow up to 20 feet long, but most are smaller with adult females averaging 15-16 feet and males 11-13 feet long.

Keji was named after the Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site in the region where he was tagged, according to OCEARCH.

What does OCEARCH do?

OCEARCH is a nonprofit research organization studying the ocean's giants.

The group studies great white sharks and other keystone species essential for the health of the oceans.

OCEARCH was due to launch its 47th expedition on April 1 but canceled it due to delays in the repair and maintenance of its research vessel M/V OCEARCH, according to a post on X, formerly Twitter.

In order to be best prepared for overseas travel & this next project we must cancel Expedition Northbound II. We've been in the shipyard tirelessly prepping the M/V OCEARCH for this expedition but unfortunately our routine maintenance and repairs have taken longer than expected.

— OCEARCH (@OCEARCH) April 10, 2024

In past expeditions, researchers collected previously unattainable data on the animals' migrations, reproductive cycle, genetic status, diet, abundance, and more.

"If we lose the apex predator (sharks) then we lose all our fish and then there are no fish sandwiches for our grandchildren," OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer told USA TODAY Network's TheCourier-Journal. "That's oversimplified, of course, but the idea is important because many shark species are threatened by overfishing and a demand for shark fins in Asia. Their dwindling numbers jeopardize ocean habitats."

OCEARCH shark tracker: One shark 'drew' a shark portrait

OCEARCH provides an online map tracking the tagged shark's travels.

Each animal has a Smart Position and Temperature Transmitting Tag (SPOT) tag attached to its dorsal fin which emits a ping when it breaks the water's surface for a short time and transmits location information to trackers.

The most notable tracker page belongs to a 13-foot 3-inch white shark nicknamed Breton. The 1,437-pound shark's pings from September 2020 to January 2022connect to show what appears to be the outline of a colossal shark, with the tail in Nova Scotia, the body spanning the East Coast and the head pointing at Florida's east coast.

9-foot great white shark starts journey north, pings off St. George Island, Florida (2)

How many sharks has OCEARCH tagged?

According to its tracker, OCEARCH has tagged 371 sharks, including 123 great white sharks.

  • 123 great white sharks

  • 144 tiger sharks

  • 9 blacktip sharks

  • 29 shortfin mako sharks

  • 25 blue sharks

  • 18 hammerhead sharks

  • 6 silky sharks

  • 6 bull sharks

  • 8 whale sharks

  • 3 great hammerhead sharks

The group has also tagged alligators, dolphins, seals, swordfish and turtles.

Great white sharks in Florida?

Yes. Great whitesharksmigrate south when the water gets cold and food sources become scarce up north, according toOCEARCH chief scientist Dr. Bob Hueter.

Think of them as the snowbirds of sharks.

Most of them tend to stay away from the beaches in continental shelf waters, Hueter said.

Most shark attacks happen in Florida

There were 69 documented unprovokedshark attacksaround the globe in 2023. The U.S. led the world with 36 attacks and Florida again was the state with the most bites at 16.

Florida shark attacks by county:

While the U.S. has the most attacks, South Africa has the most shark-related fatalities.

In the past 47 years, there have been1,230 shark bitesworldwide, according to data fromfloridapanhandle.com, withgreat white sharks credited as the top biters. However, no white shark has been identified in a Florida shark bite from 1926 to present, according to Shark Attack File.

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This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Great white shark pings off St. George Island, FL as it heads up north

9-foot great white shark starts journey north, pings off St. George Island, Florida (2024)


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