Thousands of sharks migrating south later than normal, may be due to El Niño according to scientist

Dr. Stephen Kajiura is a professor of biological sciences at Florida Atlantic University.

For the past several years, he's been tracking the migration patterns of blacktip sharks.

This year, he said they came to south Florida much later than usual.

Dr. Kajiura said the sharks typically come to south Florida in mid-January.

This year, he said they came much closer to February.

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"We've had an unusually warm winter, and as a result it may be the water was sufficiently warm where they were so there may not have been motivation to move south to warmer waters," Dr. Kajiura said.

He added that the blacktip sharks normally go back up north at the end of March, but this year the late migration south may push back that date.

Blacktip sharks usually get up to six feet in length and are very skittish, Dr. Kajiura said.

"The blacktips in general, if you jump in the water, they're going to take off. So the chances of being bitten are pretty small," he said.

This year, the FAU scientist said that many of the blacktips are hanging out off the coast of Palm Beach County.

"I fly from Miami, all the way up to Jupiter. The vast majority of sharks are found from Palm Beach to the Jupiter Inlet area. We don't find many south of there, at least we haven't so far," he said.

It's not clear why they're congregating in that area, but Kajiura said it may be because of the habitat found off the coast.

"You have some more exposed rock on the sea floor in the Palm Beach area and further north and you often see the sharks sheltering in those rocky areas," he said.

Dr. Kajiura said that sharks typically mate up north before coming south. He adds that of the 32 sharks tagged so far, all of them have been males.

He said the pregnant female sharks may not have wanted to travel as far.

The goal is to tag a total of sixty sharks. Dr. Kajiura performs aerial surveys once a week, then tags sharks from a boat weekly as well.

He hopes to one day connect the tagged sharks to social media sites so people at home can track their travels as well.

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