OCEARCH launches 22-day white shark research expedition

OCEARCH is embarking on its annual ocean research expedition to help solve the life history puzzle of the Northwest Atlantic white shark.

Alongside 42 scientists and 28 research institutions the organization will collect data to support 23 science projects that will help form a complete picture of the ecology, behavior and health of the white shark in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. 

OCEARCH is headed back to the area where they first began their Northwest Atlantic White Shark Study nine years ago, off the coast of Massachusetts. But they’re also expanding their area of work to reach a new part of the Northeast US, the waters off of New Hampshire.

“We know the area around Cape Cod and Nantucket Island is a summer aggregation site for the white shark. But not all white sharks in the Northwest Atlantic spend their summers off Cape Cod. A large component migrates as far north as Newfoundland and the Grand Banks, where prey species also abound. In between, the productive waters of the Gulf of Maine support the movements of white sharks, but to what degree these sharks use the Gulf is not well understood. So for our research this summer, we are returning to Nantucket and Cape Cod, and exploring the Gulf off New Hampshire, in our quest to understand the complete life cycle of the white shark in the Northwest Atlantic,” stated OCEARCH’s Chief Scientist Dr. Bob Hueter. 

This 22-day expedition will aim to build on the research previously conducted by OCEARCH and their collaborating scientists, while also increasing their sample size and ultimately knowledge of the overall health of white sharks in the Northwest Atlantic. With full health assessments of each shark, electronic tag application to track long-term movements, and microbiological studies of white shark’s teeth and mouth to determine the best antibiotics to administer if a white shark bites a swimmer, OCEARCH’s Northwest Atlantic White Shark Study is the most comprehensive, multidisciplinary research effort for white sharks in the world. 

“With 70 white sharks fully worked up, tagged, and released, OCEARCH’s Northwest Atlantic White Shark Study is the most comprehensive research study that has ever been done on a white shark population. In just seven years of fieldwork in the Northwest Atlantic we have taken the NW Atlantic white shark population from one of the least understood populations to the most well understood and comprehensively studied populations in the world. 

Peer reviewed papers are steadily publishing with over 55 published so far and dozens more near completion. We are modernizing the approach to ocean research to make it more efficient, inclusive, collaborative and open sourced. We have brought the practical and academic together for the future, for our kids. It is a privilege to be a part of it and it is a great demonstration of individuals, companies and research institutions coming together for the future abundance of our oceans. It is going to take us all,” stated Chris Fischer, OCEARCH Founder and Expedition Leader.

Expedition New England will depart from New Bedford, Mass., on Aug. 1 and move up the coast towards New Hampshire with a final docking currently planned on Aug. 20. 

Community events for the public are also planned throughout Expedition New England. On Saturday July 31, OCEARCH will host a virtual STEM Education camp allowing global students and teachers alike to join the expedition in a unique way. OCEARCH has also teamed up with Cisco Brewers to host white shark party community events that will help raise money for OCEARCH’s research expeditions.

The public is encouraged to follow along with the expedition in real time on social media (@ocearch) and online at ocearch.org.

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