Great white shark now closer to UK than US

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A 17-foot great white shark has only become the second in history to cross the Atlantic and is heading for the British shores – just in time for summer.

The 3,541 lb female shark called Nukumi typically swims along the west coast of America and Canada and is tracked by the scientific organization OCEARCH

But in a very unusual move, the 50-year-old matriarch – the tallest ever tagged in the region by scientists watching her – swerved east, across the Atlantic.

Migratory species like great white sharks rarely cross the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – a barrier in the middle of the ocean – but the little daredevil took the plunge earlier this month.

The only other great white shark followed on the crossing was Lydia, in April 2014, who stunned scientists with an epic trip to the Portuguese coast.

Nukumi’s two-month trip so far has taken her 1,700 nautical miles off the British coast – and experts have admitted: “She is able to reach the British coast”, although she generally remains apart.

Experts believe she is on the move because she could be pregnant and is looking for a place to give birth away from her aggressive male counterparts.

Credit: SWNS

OCEARCH Chief Scientist Dr Bob Hueter said: “At this point in its trajectory, Nukumi crossed from the West Atlantic to the East Atlantic through the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the division between the west and east.

“She has been swimming east for about two months since leaving the US coast off the state of North Carolina. At its last known location, Nukumi was still about 1,700 nautical miles from the United Kingdom.

“Now it’s less than her distance from the American coast, so she is able to reach the British coast. But we can’t predict it will, as white sharks are rare off the UK.

“If she doesn’t turn around soon, she could be heading to offshore islands or seamounts in the eastern Atlantic, places like the Azores. Or maybe she’ll be heading there. opening to the Mediterranean Sea, because there are white sharks in the Mediterranean. “

Nukumi when she was tagged.  Credit: SWNS
Nukumi when she was tagged. Credit: SWNS

Nukumi is the largest white shark tagged in the Northwest Atlantic by OCEARCH to date, and researchers believe she is over 50, judging by her large scars.

Tracking from the nonprofit, which attached a tag to its dorsal fin in Nova Scotia in October 2020, shows it travels an average of 44 miles each day.

Nukumi left the North Carolina coast on February 22 and, since being tagged, has traveled approximately 5,570 miles. She crossed the ridge around April 5 and has “pinged” several times since.

She potentially had 15 reproductive cycles and up to a hundred babies, who are now believed to be old enough to have theirs.

Dr Hueter believes Nukumi may be pregnant and is moving away from predatory males closer to the United States.

Credit: SWNS
Credit: SWNS

He said: “A proportion of the large adult female white sharks that we have tagged have made these offshore forays, looping, far into the western Atlantic.

“The hypothesis we have developed is that these females are pregnant, having mated off the American coast and now moving away from the mainstream population to give birth to their young.

“It probably takes advantage of deep prey such as squid and fish that live in the open ocean at depth.

“We won’t be able to confirm anything until we see more of her track, and she’s also carrying a pop-up satellite beacon which is due to report back to us in September.”

If Nukumi is pregnant, there will be cause for concern, as Dr Hueter explained: “One of the concerns we have is that there is significant fishing activity in the areas where she travels, with huge fleets of longliners fishing for other species.

“It’s a huge white shark that could tear apart a lot of fishing gear, but any interaction with hooks and lines could pose a serious risk to its survival.”

Probably for the best that she turns around, doesn’t she?



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