FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/AP) — For more than a century, South Florida has attracted an ever-growing population of winter visitors fleeing the freezing north. But birds, fish and even sharks have also come to the southern part of the Sunshine State to escape the freezing winter temperatures.
The latest arrival is a great white shark named Sable.
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At 11:05 p.m. on January 29, Sable pinged from a satellite beacon affixed to her dorsal from Carysfort Reef in the Florida Keys. This meant that the ridge had broken the surface of the water.
On January 23, she pinged about 20 miles off Vero Beach.
Beachgoers have nothing to fear – well, probably not. Sable may be 11.5 feet long, weigh over 800 pounds, and have a mouthful of hundreds of razor-sharp teeth, but she’s a far cry from a beach. She was traveling along the edge of the continental shelf, where water depths exceed 300 feet. She has traveled over 2,500 miles since being tagged.
So what do we know about Sable? Well, she likes long swims.
When the OCEARCH team first encountered Sable, it was in the cool fall waters off the coast of Nova Scotia on September 13, 2021. Sable took a bait, and before she I don’t know what was going on, she found herself being lifted from below. by a hydraulic lift on the research vessel OCEARCH.
The research team took height and weight measurements, blood samples and checked other vital signs. In just 15 minutes, the team can collect 12 different biological samples from the shark. The team then affixed a smart position or temperature tag (SPOT) to the dorsal fin and lowered the shark lift (platform) into the water.
“Sable is the 76th shark sampled, tagged and released as part of the non-profit research organization’s Northwest Atlantic White Shark Study and the third in Expedition Nova Scotia 2021,” according to the OCEARCH website. “She was named after Sable Island National Park Reserve, located about 180 miles offshore from Halifax, Nova Scotia, near where she was tagged.”
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Sightings of great white sharks in East Florida waters have become more frequent in recent years. Bob Hueter, chief scientist for OCEARCH, of Sarasota, was on a mission when Sable was tagged.
“At her size, she is probably starting to approach sexual maturity, and if not, she will be in a few years or so. to start moving south at the start of winter,” Hueter said.
“If you follow her track you can see she made a fairly steady progression along the coast, maybe she lingered a bit around Cape Hatteras,” he added.
Hueter said when white sharks come south, they can’t feed on seals. But they can find whale carcasses, feed on other sharks or certain types of fish. Maybe black tuna, bonito or other fish they can catch along the edges of the Gulf Stream.
“The Cape Hatteras area of the Keys is part of their southern range, but they tend to stay well offshore,” he said. “Tagging research has taught us that they are a common winter visitor to Florida waters.”
Hueter said he hopes Sable will send more pings in the weeks and months to come.
“Keep an eye on Sable. I could predict that it could continue along the coast and wind into the Gulf of Mexico. We should learn a lot as she has a 5 year old tag on her.
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