Ironbound the Great White Shark Tracked off Nova Scotia Shore

Ironbound, the famous 12-foot-long great white shark, has been tracked off the Canadian coast, after slowly making its way up the East Coast of the U.S.

Tracked by research non-profit OCEARCH, the tracker ping of the 1,000-pound predator updated for the first time since May, where it was last located in the Gulf of Maine. Before that, Ironbound was tracked to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and off the New Jersey coast. Due to the signal-blocking qualities of deep water, the tracker will only ping when the sharks get closer to the surface.

This northwards swim is consistent with the usual migration of great whites on the East Coast. The sharks tend to move into the northern waters of New England and Nova Scotia during the summer months, before swimming south to the waters off Florida in winter.

During fall and spring, they are less predictable, and are distributed more broadly around the coast.

great white breaching
Stock image of a great white shark breaching as it attacks a seal in South Africa. Ironbound, a great white tracked by OCEARCH, has recently been pinged off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Maine, one of Ironbound's passing points this year, has seen an increase in shark sightings in 2022 compared to previous years, which experts think is due to a boom in seal populations in the area.

"The white sharks have always been here. But, there has been an uptick in sightings in recent years," Tess Moore, a senior at the College of the Atlantic, told WABI 5.

Great whites pose a very low risk to humans, however, even if they come closer to shore.

"I would say that this is not anything to worry about. You should just be cautious, the same way you would be cautious if you're crossing the street. It's a very small risk in comparison to crossing the street. You're more likely to get killed by a vending machine falling on you than get attacked by a shark," Moore said.

Ironbound was first tagged by OCEARCH in 2019, off the coast of Nova Scotia, and is one of 432 animals tracked by the research teams.

Sharks like Ironbound are caught with handlines, and restrained and studied on the research boat, with minimal stress to the animal thanks to hoses ensuring a continuous flow of seawater over their gills.

Researchers then tag the shark, record data including weight and length, and take blood and tissue samples. The data from these captures and subsequent tracking pings help conservation groups to better protect the sharks from the threats they face in the anthropocene.

According to the IUCN red list, great white sharks are classified as a vulnerable species, with populations having reduced by between 30 and 49 percent over the last three generations (159 years).

This is mostly due to human actions: high numbers are caught by humans for their valuable jaws, teeth and skin, and their fins are harvested for shark-fin soup, often resulting in the shark being thrown back into the ocean whole, with its fin cut off. Additionally, plastic pollution and fishing waste in the oceans can cause the sharks to get entangled and suffocate.