“Jaws” Is In The Gulf

In 2005, Tide magazine published an article I wrote about great white sharks in the Gulf of Mexico.

Entitled “Jaws in the Gulf”?” it won a first place prize in the Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association Excellence In Craft competition that year but it was quite controversial.

Naysayers said I was crazy for claiming great whites existed in the Gulf, despite both scientific and anecdotal proof in the story.

In 2014, the claim of great whites in the Gulf was vindicated when “Katharine” and “Betsy”, two young great whites were verified in Gulf waters.

Both of these sharks were fitted with SPOT transmitters by research/conservation group OCEARCH. These tags communicate with satellites and when the information from those tags if fed back to OCEARCH, it allows the public to view their movements at OCEARCH.org.

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Unama’ki at time of capture in Sept. 2019. (Photo Courtesy Ocearch)

When, Katharine, all 2300 pounds of her, staked out the stretch of coastline off of Panama City Beach, Fla., people paid attention. More than four million logged onto the OCEARCH website, crashing the server the week and causing a media firestorm.

“Those two sharks, Katharine in particular, drew an enormous amount of attention to great white sharks in a very positive way and the interactive nature of the site, gave people a way to see great white movements take place in a way never before possible,” said OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer.

“We are solving the life history puzzle of ‘Jaws’ out of the Cape Cod area for the first time in history and it has been interesting to see unfold.”

And that story is continuing to unfold as Unama’ki, a massive adult female that was 2,076 pounds at the time of her capture off the coast of Nova Scotia moved into the Gulf and at the last “ping” of her tag was offshore somewhere west of the Mississippi River in Louisiana.

This is the first mature great white tagged by Ocearch to show up this far west in the Gulf and it is possible it could head all the way to Texas.

There is much to learn about great white behavior and Ocearch’s cutting-edge approach has made knowledge of them formerly out of reach, possible.

Historical records from the 1900s show great white in catch records from Florida to Port Aransas, TX.

While there is no question these giants are not abundant in Gulf waters, its obvious they don’t mind swimming in its warm currents and I have a feeling Unama’ki, isn’t the only one out there.

More to come.

Chester Moore, Jr.