In March of 2011, sightings of great white sharks off the coast of Georgia were reported by state biologists. The biologist say that the sharks were following humpback whales and right whales, Georgia’s state mammal, during their calving season. During the calving season, these whales, typically found in cooler, deeper water, migrate to warm, shallow waters, including the ones off the Eastern coast.
One Georgia state biologist, Clay George, says that the great whites sometimes follow pregnant right whales south to the warmer waters of the southern coast. Warm waters, like off the Eastern coast and down to the Caribbean, are the chosen spot for calving whales. Great white sharks, it seems, are moving south with the whales more.
Biologists say that the great whites are following humpbacks more now than before, which is the apparent cause behind the increased sightings. Humpback whales and right whales prefer northern waters outside of the calving season for their feeding grounds, which is where great whites of the northern hemisphere are normally found as well. These sharks are found most often in colder, deeper waters of the northern and southern hemispheres, though they can range through the warmer waters near the equator.
Great white sharks are ubiquitous through the oceans of the world, found on the margins of all continents of temperate waters. This solitary shark can grow up to 21 feet in length, and some evidence points to sharks that have attained up to 26 feet in length. They can be found near the surface of the ocean and down to an amazing depth of around 4,200 feet below. Though attacks on humans are recorded occasionally, these sharks do not typically seek out human prey. They feed on fish, seals, other sharks, sea turtles, seabirds, porpoises, and the blubber of dead whales.
Though great whites are being found off the coasts of southern states, precautions can be taken when in the ocean during the winter and spring, which is the normal time for calving whales – and great whites – to be present. Wearing a life preserver, while also a legal requirement, allows any person gone overboard off a ship to float easily until rescued. Staying in shallower waters near the shore may also help as a precaution.