This site is designed to provide the public with helpful information about sharks and rays in the waters surrounding Florida coasts. If you have recently caught an animal with an embedded UNF tag please follow the instructions on the survey listed on this page.
Have you recently seen a white shark off the Southeastern US? If so, please complete this survey to report your white shark sighting! Your report is appreciated and can help ongoing white shark research.
White sharks are present in the waters off the southeastern United States during winter months. In an effort to better understand the habitat preferences of white sharks and their migration patterns, we are interested in documenting white shark sightings off the southeastern US. For more information download thisinformational flier.
The UNF Shark Biology Program includes research on the physiological factors that regulate development and reproduction in aquatic vertebrates with special emphasis on the endocrine system. We also conduct research on the effects that environmental pollution may have on these essential processes. The overall goals of this program is to determine how reproductive adaptations contribute to the growth and stability of aquatic vertebrate populations, and how alterations in the reproductive biology of aquatic vertebrates caused by environmental contaminants can lead to population decline.
The majority of our research is conducted on sharks and rays. Student involvement is an integral part of these research projects, and both undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in participating in this research are encouraged to contact us.
Identification of Shark Essential Fish Habitat in Northeast Florida Waters: As part of the Cooperative Atlantic States Shark Pupping and Nursery (COASTSPAN) Survey Program, the species composition, abundance, distribution, and movement patterns of shark populations in northeast Florida waters will be studied. This work will focus on three regions: 1) the St. Mary's River & associated river/lagoon systems, 2) the St. Johns River, and 3) portions of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway near Jacksonville. The goal of this research is to identify areas that are in need of special consideration and, in some cases, protection because they serve as essential habitat for ecologically and economically important and federally regulated shark species. These collections will also be used as a resource for samples used in other studies on pollutant exposure/effects and reproduction.
Pollutant Exposure & Effects in Sharks and Rays on the U.S. East Coast: We will be continuing to study exposure levels and effects of environmental pollutants in shark and ray populations from the U.S. east coast, with special emphasis on emerging contaminants of concern, such as human pharmaceuticals and personal care products. The goal of this research is to determine if shark populations residing in areas identified as “essential habit” are exposed to health-threatening levels of aquatic toxins or pollutants and are exhibiting signs of pollutant effects. Since little research has been conducted on pollutant effects in sharks and rays, much of this work focuses on the development of techniques used to identify pollutant-specific effects in these animals. Given the threatened status of many shark populations, pecial emphasis is placed on the development of non-lethal tools for examining pollutant exposure and effects in sharks and rays. Several of these techniques are also being applied to other threatened or federally protected wildlife, such as the Florida manatee and Cook Inlet beluga whales.
Reproduction in sharks and other aquatic vertebrates: We intend to continue research on the hormonal regulation of reproduction in sharks and rays, with new emphasis on the development and/or refinement of non-lethal tools for examining the reproductive biology of these animals. We are preparing to begin a multi-year study on the reproductive biology of the endangered smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), in which we will use plasma sex hormone profiles to determine size-at-maturity and reproductive seasonality of this species. A similar collaborative study will use sex hormone profiles to determine maturity status and reproductive stage of the threatened alligator gar, Atractosteus spatula.
2011 Jacksonville Area Shark Attacks
2010 Jacksonville Area Shark Attacks
623 Shark attacks in Florida with 11 recorded fatalities
3 Shark attacks in Nassau County
20 Shark attacks in Duval County with 2 recorded fatalities
28 Shark attacks in St. Johns County
In 2010, the total number of attacks in Florida was well below this average.
2010 Shark Attack Summary
79 Shark attacks in the World in 2010
13 Shark attacks in Florida in 2010
0 Shark attacks in Nassau County in 2010
2 Shark attacks in Duval County in 2010
3 Shark attacks in St. Johns County in 2010
Data provided by the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Advice: If you see a shark in the water, leave the area.
Rationale: In reality most people swimming at the beach will never see sharks even though they may be present. If you do see a shark and are concerned about your safety, it is advisable to leave the water. Although it is unlikely that the shark would attack you, it is smart to play it safe.
Advice: Avoid entering the water from dusk till dawn.
Rationale: Many species of sharks are believed to be more active at night. Avoiding swimming at night may reduce your chances of encountering a feeding shark. Also, swimming at night may increase the chances of mistaken identity as the shark may not be able to see you well enough to know that you are not something that it normally eats.
Advice: Avoid wearing shiny jewelry or watches.
Rationale: Many sharks feed on fish. By wearing shiny objects on your person, you may mimic the reflection of light that fish scales sometimes produce, resulting in mistaken identity.
Advice: Avoid swimming in areas where fishing is occurring.
Rationale: Fishing activity can increase shark interest in the area due to the presence of bait in the water (sharks may smell the bait). Struggling fish caught on the line may also attract shark interest in the area. If you are fishing in the surf, avoid storing bait or catch on your person while in the water.
Advice: Avoid swimming in areas with murky or turbid water.
Rationale: Cloudy water makes it hard for you to see a shark and makes it hard for a shark to see you. This can lead to mistaken identity or investigative bites by a shark.
Advice: Avoid entering the water with an open wound.
Rationale: In addition to any medical reasons to avoid the water with an open wound, a bleeding wound may get the attention of any sharks swimming nearby as sharks have a very good sense of smell.
Q: If I see dolphins or porpoises nearby does this mean that there are no sharks in the area?
A: No, dolphins and porpoises often eat the same prey as sharks so if dolphins are in the area to feed, then sharks may also be present. Some species of sharks have also been known to prey on dolphins.
Q: I saw video of hundreds of sharks off the beach recently. Is this normal or are sharks attacking our beaches?
A: The presence of large numbers of sharks off of the Florida coast is normal, especially in southeast Florida waters during the Spring. Aggregations of sharks off Florida’s coast can be common during migratory periods and even non-migratory periods. The coastline is a natural habitat for many shark species so their presence is to be expected.
Shark Biology Research Lab
Dr. Jim Gelsleichter
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