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  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 7:52am
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ENVIRONMENT

Sharks invade Florida coast in annual migration

Florida's popular Spring Break resorts have attracted some extra visitors to the beach this year - thousands of blacktip and spinner sharks on their annual migration north

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 March, 2013, 3:33am
 

Florida's popular Spring Break resorts have attracted some extra visitors to the beach this year - thousands of blacktip and spinner sharks on their annual migration north.

Officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties on Florida's southeast coast temporarily closed several beaches to swimmers as a precaution, although marine biologists say that there is little risk to people, and the beaches were reopened on Thursday. Some of the large sharks, up to 2.5 metres long, could be seen jumping clear of the water in spectacular leaps.

"The sharks are not predatory, at least as far as humans are concerned, and in clear water are far more likely to just swim away," said Shari Tellman, of Florida Atlantic University's Elasmobranch Research Laboratory.

The sharks are not predatory, at least as far as humans are concerned, and in clear water are far more likely to just swim away

"The only real issue would be if the water's murky and there's a case of mistaken identity, or a shark just bumps into you, because they have very rough skin. When they are together in a big group there's always the possibility of larger sharks being nearby, but there's only a small chance of any problem."

Tellman's team of researchers have been tracking the migrations from the shore and the air for two years, and say the sharks will be gone from the Florida coast by next month to spend the summer months in the warm Atlantic waters off Georgia and the Carolinas.

She likened them to Florida's famous human "snowbirds", visitors from the colder northern states and Canada who spend the winter enjoying the more tropical climes in the south.

"They come down in the late autumn when it starts getting colder, they're very visible here during the winter hanging around and enjoying the warmer temperatures, and in the spring they turn around and start heading back north again," she said.

"It's their annual migration pattern. It looks spectacular, but it's their normal behaviour."

One research team tracked a school of up to 5,000 sharks close to the shoreline by the Jupiter Inlet on Wednesday.

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