A stunning number of blacktip sharks have been spotted swimming within just a few hundred feet of the Florida coastline, as the species’ annual migration toward warmer waters gets underway.
FAU biological sciences professor Dr. Stephen Kajiura captured video of the sharks’ migration on Friday morning, according to CBS 12. Flying just 500 feet above the waves in a Cessna 172 as part of his weekly survey of the sharks, Dr. Kajiura managed to record images sure to give even the bravest swimmers and surfers pause.
“It’s so cool. There are literally tens of thousands of sharks a stone’s throw away from our shoreline. You could throw a pebble and literally strike a shark. They are that close.”
— CNN iReport (@cnnireport) February 13, 2016
The scientist, who has seen his work featured on Discovery’s Shark Week in the past, noted that the majority of the blacktip sharks were to be found between Miami Beach north and the Jupiter Inlet. Queried about the areas south of Boynton Beach and in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, Dr. Kajiura noted that very few of the sharks could be observed there.
The blacktips tend to congregate off Jupiter Inlet, yet the reason why they are attracted to the area around Palm Beach County remains unclear. That motivation is the focus of Dr. Kajiura’s work, undertaken as part of his position as head of Florida Atlantic University’s shark lab, the Palm Beach Daily News notes.
— The Ocean Project (@theoceanproject) February 9, 2016
Dr. Kajiura isn’t confined solely to the air on the course of his research, however, setting out on a weekly basis to fish for the sharks and tag them before returning the animals to the sea. During the migratory season, which lasts through March, he intends to fly and fish for the sharks at least once every week. Once the season ends, the sharks will head north with warming water, but not before putting a dramatic stamp on the local ecosystem.
— Discovery Canada (@DiscoveryCanada) February 8, 2016
Florida beachgoers are no strangers to shark interactions, and recently it was confirmed that the Sunshine State ranks as the most likely place in the world for such an event to occur. Earlier this week, the International Shark Attack File released its data for 2015, a record year for shark attacks. With 164 attacks documented by the organization worldwide, Florida reported 30 distinct shark bites, more than any other state in the nation. That number actually represents 51 percent of all of the shark attacks recorded in the United States in 2015.
While such statistics may make it seem that a beachgoer is likely to be attacked by a shark in Florida, Dr. Kajiura notes that this is hardly the case. With more than 10,000 sharks gathering during a blacktip migration, the number of incidents reported each year is actually surprisingly small.
“Even though we have this huge number of sharks — tens of thousands of them immediately adjacent to shore here in South Florida — we have relatively few bites. When you consider the number of people in the water and the number of sharks in the water you’d think there would be a lot of interaction.”
Blacktip sharks average around six feet in length, and while they may account for the majority of bites reported in Florida, they actually pose little danger to most people. Shari Tellman of Boynton Beach, who has assisted Dr. Kajiura in his research over the last several years, noted that the animals’ teeth are tiny, making them likely to immediately release a person following a mistaken bite.
Though they are hardly the only species to be recorded in Florida, as the Inquisitr has previously reported, blacktip sharks are nonetheless one of the most visible, and will remain so in the coming months, until this year’s migration reaches its terminus.
[Photo by Kawika Holbrook via Flickr | Cropped and Resized | CC BY-SA 2.0]