North Carolina’s Outer Banks is a favorite vacation destination for tens of thousands of beachgoers each year. The area also happens to be a favorite hangout for great white sharks. A 1,500-pound shark was tracked in the waters just off Cape Point on February 28, 2023.
OCEARCH tags and tracks sharks all over the world. Most of their tagged sharks, though, are found off the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada. The shark that is currently stalking the waters of the Outer Banks was initially tagged in Nova Scotia on September 12, 2020. Researchers named the male great white shark “Breton” in honor of the citizens of Cape Breton where the 1,437-pound shark was tagged. If Breton weighed that much two and half years ago, it’s a good bet he’s 1,450-1,500 pounds today.
Scientists and researchers at OCEARCH are committed to educating the world about the importance of these sharks. As the ocean’s top predator, sharks keep the ocean’s ecosystem in balance.
This Shark Loves North Carolina!
To better understand these elusive predatory fish, OCEARCH tracks all the sharks that it tags, recording their migratory and behavior patterns. Breton, the large male great white shark tagged in Nova Scotia, has shown up off the coast of Newfoundland and Quebec’s Anticosti Island. He has also traveled south to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The shark has been in North Carolina waters for over a month now, first showing up off the coast of Bald Head Island on January 26. Just before Breton’s most recent ping in the Outer Banks, he was tracked off the coast of Wilmington on February 24.
Past data shows that Breton will eventually move on to other feeding grounds. However, his tracking data reveals Breton to be a bit more of a haphazard traveler than some of the other great white sharks currently tracked by OCEARCH. One thing that the data does confirm, though, is the waters of North and South Carolina are where Breton shows up the most.
Is It Normal for Sharks to Stay in the Same Waters for So Long?
Why would a young, 1,500-pound, great white shark like Breton spend so much time in one place? Is this normal shark behavior, or has he gone rogue? In the case of Breton and several other sharks tagged by OCEARCH, there is a perfectly normal explanation for this behavior. The waters off the coast of North Carolina are a famous great white breeding ground and nursery.
The researchers at OCEARCH had wondered why so many tagged sharks that travel all over the Atlantic and swim over 27,000 miles a year always end up in North Carolina every spring. Over several years, tagged sharks — including Breton — have consistently returned to the same waters at the same time every year and stay there for weeks or months at a time.
Three factors must be present to prove that the waters of the North Carolina shores are a true shark breeding ground and nursery.
- There must be evidence of young sharks’ presence more often than in other areas.
- These young sharks must remain in the area for an extended period.
- Sharks must use the same area repeatedly for years.
The tracking data proved all three points. North Carolina is home to a great white shark nursery. It’s very exciting but also scary, unless you consider that it only happens in the spring and late winter. That leaves the entire summer for swimming with only the usual amount of caution.
Reason to Worry?
Should visitors to the Outer Banks worry, knowing a 1,500-pound apex ocean predator is lurking just off the coast? The short answer is, not really.
That’s not a crystal-clear answer, to be sure, but that’s because “worry” is probably the wrong word. Awareness and caution are much more accurate descriptions of how North Carolina beachgoers should approach the situation.
Shark attacks are rare in North Carolina. From the beginning of the 20th century to today, there have been 117 documented shark attacks in North Carolina waters. That averages to less than one attack per year. By comparison, there were 16 shark attacks in Florida in 2022 alone. Florida continues to be the shark attack capital of the world.
The odds of a shark attack in North Carolina are extremely low, but that doesn’t mean the odds are zero. Check local shark activity reports before heading out for a day at the beach. Also, be aware of your surroundings while in the water. While there is no reason to panic, the ocean’s top predators do hunt these waters.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com
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