Shark 'Tank': Blacktips Gather In Huge Group Near Coast
Like clockwork, thousands of blacktip sharks migrate down the Atlantic coast to South Florida's coast in search of food and warmer waters every winter. This year, however, something is just not quite right: It appears the sharks have gotten a late start.
The migration, which begins offshore of the Carolinas, can be seen in an amazing aerial footage captured by The Sun Sentinel. The animals' late start, likely a result of El Niño, has some experts concerned.
"What I can say is they are running late this year, and I'm curious to see if we have the same numbers that we've had in other years," Stephen Kajiura, Florida Atlantic University professor of biological sciences, said.
Blacktip sharks, characterized black markings on the tips of their fins, average about five feet in length. Generally they winter in Florida from mid-January to mid-March, often swimming within only a few feet of shore where they have an abundance of fish to prey on.
Kajiura, who has been studying shark migration since 2011, surveyed the ocean between Miami and Jupiter, recording aerial footage of thousands of sharks off Palm Beach, which for some reason has always been a "hot spot" for the sharks.
After spending the winter in Florida, blacktip sharks travel north to waters off of Georgia and the Carolinas. In recent years, however, some have even been seen as far north as New York -- which Kajiura says is likely a response to changing water temperatures.
This season, an especially strong El Niño has significantly impacted water temperatures and altered the migration patterns of many other marine animals, especially whales.
Even though the sharks stay close to shore, Kajiura assure beach-goers have nothing to worry about.
"For the most part, these sharks are really skittish, so when you get in the water, they're going to scatter and go away," he told The International Business Times.
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