A 17-foot great white shark may be heading towards Britain after “taking a wrong turn”.
Nukumi – which weighs 253 stones – has become only the second in history to cross the Atlantic.
He usually swims up and down the west coast of America and Canada, but appears to have deviated eastward.
And now the 50-year-old matriarch – the largest ever tagged in the region by scientists monitoring her – has been located just 1,700 nautical miles off the UK coast.
Migratory species such as great white sharks rarely cross the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – a barrier in the middle of the ocean – but Nukumi took the plunge earlier this month.
And it kept going, surfacing long enough for the tag in its dorsal fin to “recall” a GPS location on the shark locators it grabbed at the scientific organization OCEARCH.
The only other great white shark tracked during the crossing was Lydia, in April 2014, who stunned scientists with an epic journey to the coast of Portugal.
Nukumi’s two-month journey has so far brought her close enough to the British shores for experts to admit: “She is able to reach the shores of the United Kingdom.”
They think she’s on her way because she may be pregnant and is looking for a place to give birth away from her aggressive male counterparts.
“ABLE TO REACH THE UNITED KINGDOM”
OCEARCH Chief Scientist Dr Bob Hueter said, “At this point on his journey, Nukumi has crossed from the western Atlantic to the eastern Atlantic over the mid-Atlantic ridge, the dividing element between west and east.
“He has been swimming east for about two months since he left the US coast off the state of North Carolina.
“In its last known position, Nukumi was still about 1,700 nautical miles from the UK.
“Now, it’s less than its distance from the US coast, so it’s able to reach the UK coast. But we don’t expect it to, as white sharks are rare off the UK.”
Instead they believe it could go to offshore islands or seamounts in the eastern Atlantic, possibly the Azores.
Or it could head towards the opening in the Mediterranean Sea, “as there are white sharks in the Mediterranean”.
But it will most likely turn around and “go back to the western Atlantic”.
UK waters are generally considered too cold for great whites to survive, but some scientists believe this could change due to climate change.
Shark expert Dr Ken Collins previously said that in the next 30 years, warmer conditions and availability of prey could make British waters an ideal hunting ground for the feared beast.
Dr Collins of the University of Southampton said: “You get great whites off the coast of South Africa where the water is colder than here and I see no reason why we shouldn’t have them in our waters.
” There are great whites in the Mediterranean, which is not too far and so I see no reason why they shouldn’t be spotted here, particularly off the Cornish coast where there is an abundant supply of seals, their favorite food . “
Nukumi is the largest white shark tagged in the Northwest Atlantic by OCEARCH to date, and researchers believe it is over 50 years old judging by its large scars.
Monitoring by the nonprofit OCEARCH, which attached a label to its dorsal fin in Nova Scotia in October 2020, shows it travels 44 miles per day on average.
Sharks are given a location and temperature tag that used satellites to send their position each time they hit the surface.
You get great whites off the coast of South Africa where the water is colder than here and I see no reason why we shouldn’t have them in our waters.
Dr Ken Collins
Nukumi left the North Carolina coast on February 22 and has traveled approximately 5,570 miles since being tagged.
He crossed the ridge around April 5th and has “played” several times since.
She has potentially had 15 reproductive cycles and up to a hundred babies, who would now be old enough to have her own.
Her name means “grandmother” in the Miꞌkmaq language of the natives of Nova Scotia.
Dr. Hueter thinks Nukumi may be pregnant and is moving away from the closest predatory males to the United States.
He said: “Nukumi is the largest shark in our North Atlantic white shark study, so it’s possible it may show us some new wrinkles in the migration of this species into the North Atlantic.
“Some of the large adult female white sharks that we have labeled have made these forays out into the open sea, in a ring, far into the western Atlantic.
“The hypothesis we have developed is that these females are pregnant, having mated off the coast of the United States and are now moving away from the main population to gravitate their young.
“It is probably taking advantage of deep-living prey like squid and deep-living deep-sea fish.
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But he said nothing would be confirmed until the team “sees no more of his track,” with more details expected from a pop-up satellite expected to be reported in September.
He added that his team is concerned about major fisheries, with huge fleets of longliners fishing for other species.
“It’s a huge white shark and it could snatch a lot of fishing gear, but any interaction with hooks and lines could pose a serious risk to its survival,” he said.