Researchers Look to Explain Mysterious Grouping of Great White Sharks Near Carolina Coast

The group of great whites is located 20 miles from the coast, a safe distance away from swimmers and beachgoers

great white sharks cluster

Scientists detect something fishy about the behavior of these sharks — and they’re looking to get to the bottom of the maritime mystery.

On Saturday, OCEARCH — a nonprofit organization that gathers data on sharks and other animals around the world by tracking and studying them — shared a map on Facebook highlighting where groups of great whites have recently been spotted.

The researchers noted an unusually large spacing between the groups.

“What do you think could be causing this big gap in where white sharks are pinging right now?” OCEARCH asked its followers. “There are pings in the Gulf of Mexico and then a big grouping in North Carolina/South Carolina but none in the middle.”

According to Raleigh, North Carolina’s News & Observer, scientists first noticed in January that tagged great white sharks were lingering off the coast of Southport, North Carolina.

Since the large great white sharks are remaining some 20 miles from the coasts, OCEARCH’s Robert Hueter told CBS News that beachgoers need not be alarmed.

great white sharks cluster
Great white sharks. OCEARCH

“In our studies, we have tagged about 43 sharks and six of the largest ones are off of the Carolinas,” said Hueter. “… They’re not right up close to the beach, so no worries for the swimmers.”

The researchers have been tracking some of these specific sharks’ migration patterns for nearly 10 years — even assigning names to a few of the creatures, some of which size up at about 15 feet in length and 2,000 lbs.

Some of those names include Luna, Cabot, Brunswick, Hal, Jane and Jefferson, according to CBS News.

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great white sharks cluster
OCEARCH map of where the sharks are clustered.

As for what’s prompting the great whites to gather as they are, the answer is still up in the air — or, perhaps, deep underwater. While rising sea temperatures could be one explanation, some experts believe sunken ships may be attracting the sharks.

“One of the really unique aspects off the North Carolina coastline, we have thousands and thousands of shipwrecks,” Brian Dorn, associate director of North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, told CBS News. “So when sharks come in, there’s big fish, small fish — this whole food chain that now exists on all these wrecks.”

Dorn added: “I do believe we’re seeing more sharks come back because of protections that are in place. So it’s a conservation success story.”

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