Annual Shark Migration
8:00 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Thousands Of Sharks Make Annual Migration Along South Florida's Coast

Blacktip sharks are among the most common sharks found inshore off the coast of Florida.
Credit Ross Elliott / Flickr Creative Commons

Discovery Channel's Shark Week isn't until August, but South Florida is in the midst of its own shark celebration of sorts. Now through the end of April, the inshore waters off the coasts of Palm Beach County to Miami-Dade County will teem with shark activity.

Thousands of sharks -- mostly blacktip sharks and some spinner sharks -- are on the move in South Florida as part of an annual migration that brings the apex predators south in search of food. The sharks are chasing large baitfish, mostly mullet. 

The "migrations run from roughly Cape Hatteras, N.C., to Broward County, or possibly northern Miami-Dade County," according to a story by Sun Sentinel. The sharks first appear in December and numbers typically peak in January and February. By April, most will have moved on.

Beach-goers who come equipped with binoculars may be able to view off-shore shark activity, particularly when sharks break the water, "spinning," as part of the hunt. Of course, the view is much more spectacular from the air, where thousands of sharks can be seen at a time.

CBS Miami shared video of the shark migration as part of its report about Florida Atlantic University's ongoing shark research. Footage -- shot about 200 yards out from the beach -- shows hundreds (and even thousands) of sharks at a stretch.

Blacktip sharks are a relatively fast-growing shark, reaching up to about six feet in length, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports the shark is "a very active, fast-swimming shark often seen at the surface...it may leap out of the water and, like the related spinner shark, spin around several times before dropping back into the sea." The sharks are among the most commonly caught in commercial fishing. 

Experts say that while the shark species is tied to about 20 percent of "unprovoked shark attacks in Florida," the incidents usually occur when a shark mistakes human hands or feet for prey fish. The safest bet is to avoid swimming at dusk or dawn and heed all beach notices or warnings from lifeguards.   

Watch the CBS Miami footage by clicking here