A 15-foot-long great white shark has been tracked to near the Bahamas and researchers believe the female could soon reveal the site of a great white shark nursery.
The shark, known as Unama’ki, is being tracked by research non-profit OCEARCH, who monitor hundreds of marine animals—ranging in size from whales to turtles—around the globe.
“When we first met Unama’ki, we knew she had the potential to lead us to a site where she might give birth. Today on the #OCEARCH Global #SharkTracker she’s in the Bahamas, roughly 50 miles northeast of Guana Cay on the edge of the Blake escarpment,” the non-profit said in a Tweet on Friday.
OCEARCH researchers first captured and tagged Unama’ki—who weighs around 2,000 pounds—in September, 2019 off the coast of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Since then, the shark has traveled more than 12,500 miles, having swum almost the entire length of the North American east coast, entering the Gulf of Mexico, heading out deep into the Atlantic Ocean and reaching as far north as Newfoundland before finally heading south towards the Bahamas, near where she was located on October 29.
Researchers said it was “curious” that Unama’ki was making a similar journey to that previously made by two other large, mature, female, white sharks, known as Luna and Lydia.
“Could she be pregnant, and moving into a calmer area?” OCEARCH asked on Twitter. “We’re hoping she exposes a new #greatwhiteshark nursery to us next spring or summer.”
Another shark, known as Mary Lee, was previously tracked making a long journey into the open ocean before returning to shore near Long Island, where a white shark nursery has been found, OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader Chris Fischer previously told Newsweek.
OCEARCH researchers locate sharks using SPOT (Smart Position and Temperature) tags, which are mounted on the top of the shark’s first dorsal fin. Scientists receive an alert, known as a “ping”, when a tracking satellite overhead detects the fin breaking the surface of the water.
In addition to SPOT tags, OCEARCH researchers also try and fit sharks with both an acoustic tag and a Pop-off Archival Satellite Tag (PSAT.)
Acoustic tags record a shark’s location by communicating with receivers stationed on the bottom of the ocean, while PSATs collect data on depth, temperature and light levels, automatically detaching from the animal at one point between six months and a year.
Collecting this type of data while also taking biological samples from the sharks they capture, provides OCEARCH researchers with valuable new insights to these powerful marine predators.