Thousands of sharks are on the move off the Florida coastline, and thanks to the efforts of one professor who is fascinated by the animals’ yearly migration, the state’s “shark season” now had a defined beginning and end.
Stephen Kajiura is a professor at Florida Atlantic University, and while some residents of the state find the yearly shark season terrifying, he is fascinated. Kajiura has spent the last five years studying shark migrations, taking to the air in an effort to document the predators as they move, according to the CBS News.
“These sharks are snowbirds. They do exactly what our visitors do from the North,” he noted.
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In the course of his research, Kajiura has determined that the sharks arrive and leave Florida waters at specific times, which he has documented and is able to predict. Moving into the region in January, the sharks linger until mid-April, when they follow warming water to new feeding grounds. The predators’ migration patterns are highly attuned to the temperature of the water, Kajiura asserts, which leads to the establishment of segregated groupings of sharks along the coastline.
“You see them right off Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades, all the way up through Palm Beach. There are certain pockets, there are more sharks and areas where there are fewer,” he asserted.
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Kajiura’s research has also revealed that shark populations congregate around inlets, hotbeds of activity where prey can be plentiful. Miami’s Government Cut, Haulover, Port Everglades, and Jupiter Inlet are all home to large shark populations. Jupiter Inlet, in particular, saw a vicious shark attack earlier this year, as WPBF notes.
“It’s like the sharks’ little grocery store,” Kajiura explained. “They get to hang out and wait for the food to come to them.”
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The Eastern Seaboard is littered with receivers that help to track shark populations, and the efforts of groups like Ocearch, which tag and document individual sharks, seem to confirm Kajiura’s assertions. Several large white sharks, like Katharine and Mary Lee, have exhibited seasonal coastal patterns that bring them into Florida waters. As the Inquisitr previously reported, Katharine in particular confounded researchers this winter by remaining in Cape Cod before taking a direct and measured course for Florida.
Along with a crew of students, Kajiura also catches sharks in the areas he documents, measuring and tagging the predators. His work was due to conclude last year, yet a secret donor funneled money into the project, keeping it afloat for the next few years. Kajiura now plans to continue sighting and tagging sharks for the next two years before pausing, returning to the project in 10 years time to see if Florida’s shark season has changed.
[Image: Jeffrey Langlois via the Palm Beach Daily News]