Exclusive: First day of great white shark expedition on board OCEARCH

by: Jenna Bourne Updated:

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OCEARCH began its search Wednesday for great white sharks off Jacksonville’s coast.

Action News Jax had the only news crew on board the first day of the expedition.

The crew of fishermen and scientists spent Wednesday just north of St. Marys River.

When they spot a shark, the ship’s platform will submerge and lift it on board.

It’s going to happen fast; the scientists only keep the shark on board for 15 minutes.

“Growing up, I had an irrational fear of sharks,” said Mote Marine Laboratory researcher Heather Marshall.

So Marshall did some research on how to avoid shark attacks. The more she learned, the more fascinated she became.

Now she draws blood from great whites.

“There’s a little bit of adrenaline, there’s a little bit of nerves,” said Marshall.

She can use that blood to measure the stress levels of the shark while it’s being tagged.

OCEARCH expedition leader Chris Fischer said their tagged sharks like to migrate through the 65 degree waters off Jacksonville’s coast this time of year.

“People should be very proud to live in this area if the white shark is leveraging it as critical habitat. That means it’s critical habitat for the North Atlantic. When you think about the white shark, you’ve got to think about it like the lion of the ocean. If they thrive, the whole food chain thrives,” said Fischer.

Fischer said the future of OCEARCH depends on this trip's success.

“I’m really hoping that we see multiple white sharks here. I think if we do that, you’re going to see OCEARCH spending a lot more time in this region, kind of maybe making this the central hub of our operation for the next several years,” said Fischer.

As soon as OCEARCH reels in a great white, they’re going to stream it live.

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