It’s the time of the year where temperatures drop all over the country and Florida beckons to many. While people from all over the Midwest descend on the The Sunshine State, they won’t be alone as a school of blacktip sharks numbering over 10,000 have taken up residence near Palm Beach, Florida.
The shark spotter
Professor Stephen M. Kajiura of Florida Atlantic University has a thing for blacktip sharks and when the southern migration begins, he’s often the go to guy for comments in the newspaper or on TV. The professor, a pilot, has been conducting aerial surveys of the blacktip shark migration over the last five years. He finds them fascinating and their presence in one place even more fascinating.
When someone would ask him about the population the professor felt the need to be well informed.,
“I would dig through scientific literature to see what we knew about it scientifically,” Kajiura says, “and was surprised that no one has ever studied this.”
Recently, the professor while flying in his Cessna 172, captured high-definition footage of the sharks between Miami Beach and Jupiter Inlet. The sheer amount of sharks he caught has made his video go viral. While that number has widely been announced as a school of “over 10,000,” Kajiura believes that it’s well over 10,000.
Last week, the professor once again found himself shooting video, “I was flying along and thought, ‘There are a lot of sharks today; let me post that video. (He did and it went viral) And those are just the sharks in the video survey. We know there’s more because we could see them on other side of the plane [out of the video frame]. That was a gross underestimate.”
“I go every week form December to April,” Kajiura says. “Shark season.”
Blacktip sharks a threat to humans?
Yes and no. Kajiura goes out of his way to tell his friends that his “shark friends” aren’t dangerous. The are generally a skittish, standoffish species that doesn’t much care for humans.
“They’re not out to get you, you’re not part of their diet, so you may as well go to the beach and enjoy the phenomenon,” Kajiura says.
That said, he does suggest that swimmers should avoid wearing anything shiny or reflective if looking to swim near the massive school as you run the risk of having that watch mistaken for a small fish that the blacktip shark prefers.
While the professor will tell you they are sweet, blacktip sharks bite more people each year than any other species of shark. They are not doing it maliciously but at the end of the day, they are not going to apologize and your hand just got bitten off by a 6.5 foot shark, so malice or lack of malice, is a bit of a moot point.
The bulk of these blacktip shark attacks occur in the murky waters near Melbourne or New Smyrna Beach, where again the shark attacks accidentally owing to a lack of water clarity.
That’s a lot of sharks
Well, yes and no.
“It looks like a lot when they’re all together,” but in the summer, they’ll move up near Virginia and spread out, says Kajiura.
During the winter migration, the sharks all mass in the 80 miles between Miami Beach and Jupiter Inlet, so they look as though they are everywhere. The thing is, they are nowhere else. Essentially, every blacktip shark on the Eastern Seaboard is in the same place at the same time.
During the summer, the sharks will head to Georgia or off the coast of the Carolinas and spread out from there.