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Great White Shark Is Now Closer To UK Than US After Becoming Second To Cross Atlantic

Great White Shark Is Now Closer To UK Than US After Becoming Second To Cross Atlantic

A female shark called Nukumi has been tracked swerving across the Atlantic

Rebecca Shepherd

Rebecca Shepherd

A 17-foot great white shark has become only the second in history to cross the Atlantic and is heading in the direction of British shores - just in time for summer.

The 3,541lb female shark called Nukumi usually swims up and down the west coast of America and Canada and is tracked by science organisation OCEARCH

But in a highly unusual move, the 50-year-old matriarch - the largest ever tagged in the region by scientists who are monitoring her - took a swerve east, across the Atlantic.

Migratory species like great white sharks rarely cross the Mid-Atlantic Ridge - a barrier in the middle of the ocean - but the little daredevil took the plunge earlier this month.

The only other great white shark tracked making the crossing was Lydia, in April 2014, which stunned scientists with an epic journey to the coast of Portugal.

Nukumi's two-month voyage has so far taken her to 1,700 nautical miles off British shores - and experts admitted: "She is capable of reaching the UK coast," despite usually staying away.

Experts reckon she's on the move because she could be pregnant, and is looking for a place to give birth away from her aggressive male counterparts.


OCEARCH's chief scientist Dr. Bob Hueter said: "At this point in her track, Nukumi has crossed from the western Atlantic to the eastern Atlantic over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the dividing feature between west and east.

"She has been swimming eastward for about two months since she left the U.S. coast off the state of North Carolina. As of her last known location, Nukumi was still about 1,700 nautical miles from the UK.

"Now, that is less than her distance from the U.S. coast, so she is capable of reaching the UK coast. But we would not predict that she will do that, as white sharks are rare off the UK.

"If she does not turn back soon, she might go to offshore islands or seamounts in the eastern Atlantic, places like the Azores. Or perhaps she will head towards the opening into the Mediterranean Sea, as there are white sharks in the Med."

Nukumi when she was tagged.

Nukumi is the largest white shark tagged in the Northwest Atlantic by OCEARCH to date, and researchers believe she is over 50 years old judging by her large scars.

Tracking from the non-profit organisation, who attached a tag to her dorsal fin in Nova Scotia in October 2020, shows she travels on average 44 miles each day.

Nukumi left the North Carolina coast on February 22 and since being tagged has travelled around 5,570 miles. She crossed the ridge around April 5, and has 'pinged' a number of times since.

She has potentially had 15 reproductive cycles and up to a hundred babies, which would now be old enough to have their own.

Dr Hueter thinks that Nukumi could be pregnant and is heading away from the predatory males closer to the US.


He said: "A proportion of the large, adult female white sharks we have tagged, have made these offshore, looping forays, far out into the western Atlantic.

"The hypothesis that we have developed is that these females are pregnant, having mated off the U.S. coast and now heading away from the main population to gestate their young.

"She is likely taking advantage of deep-living prey such as squid and fish that live out in the open sea at depth.

"We won't be able to confirm any of this until we see more of her track, and she is also carrying a pop-up satellite tag due to report to us in September."

If Nukumi is pregnant, there will be cause for concern as Dr Hueter explained: "One concern we have is that there is major fishing activity out in the areas where she is traveling, with huge fleets of longliners fishing for other species.

"She is a massive white shark and could tear through a lot of fishing gear, but any interaction with hooks and lines could pose a severe risk to her survival."

Probably for the best she turns round, isn't it?

Featured Image Credit: SWNS

Topics: News, Animals, shark