“When we tagged him, he was impressive,” says Bob Hueter, chief scientist at OCEARCH, of the giant shark as he passes through New Jersey waters.
Hueter holds the utmost respect for the mammoth predator, known to his organization as Ironbound. The great white’s name comes from West Ironbound Island near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where OCEARCH first detected him.
“He’s gone back and forth from where we found him in Nova Scotia and the Florida Keys several times,” Hueter adds for CNN. In fact, Ironbound has traversed at least 13,000 miles in the time OCEARCH has had him tagged. And right now, he’s passing by the New Jersey shore.
Ironbound’s presence is always notable by the size of his species alone. At 12 feet, 4 inches long and 1,000 pounds, the 20-year-old great white shark is a formidable presence – especially off New Jersey’s crowded shores. Yet OCEARCH studies great whites in excess of 17 feet and 4,000 pounds. So Ironbound may still have some growing to do.
OCEARCH provides open-source shark migration data. If a New Jersey resident were curious if any great white sharks were in the vicinity of their swimming spot, for example, the non-profit is a good place to start.
Annual Great White Shark Migration Has Ironbound Passing By New Jersey Shores
Ironbound himself was first tagged in October of 2019 in Canadian waters. This spring, he’s making his annual migration north, passing through New Jersey on his way back to Nova Scotia.
Great whites that call the Atlantic Ocean home all make this annual migration. And “Ironbound is no exception,” Hueter says of the 1,000-pound predator. Once winter sets in, they swim south, traveling the entire eastern shore of the United States in many cases. But as the waters warm through spring into summer, they turn back for northern waters.
“They’re moving north to the very rich feeding grounds off of Canada and the northeastern US,” Hueter explains. And there Ironbound will stay for the remainder of summer. This behavior is “an adaptation, of course, to seasonal temperature fluxes, to where the food is,” he adds. “Mating season is over, we think, and Ironbound is on his way north to get into some good feeding ground and bulk up again for the next year.”
Surprisingly, marine biologists still aren’t sure exactly where or when great white sharks mate. They do have a theory for the Atlantic giants, though, and have pinpointed the coasts of North and South Carolina as a possible location. But no one knows for sure. Not yet, which is remarkable given how long the species has existed.
“Sharks have been around for about 400 million years,” Hueter cites. “They in many cases occupy what’s called the apex predator position, in marine food webs. Just like on land, that is an important role in terms of keeping the lower parts of the food web healthy and balanced.”
Which is one reason why – as much as humanity may fear them – the great white shark’s resurgence off America’s coasts is reason to celebrate, not panic.