Migrating Tiger Sharks


Quickly rising ocean temperatures are causing tiger sharks to migrate to waters that were previously unsuitable for them. Tiger sharks love warmer water. As s normally cooler water heats up, their migration patterns alter. They are traveling up the east coast as far as New Jersey. The consequences of this are potentially detrimental to humans and tiger sharks alike.  

New Tiger Shark Migration Patterns

A new study at the University of Miami tracked tagged tiger sharks, looking at patterns from the past nine years. They noticed the correlation between the rising ocean temperatures and their migration patterns. As water temperatures rose over the years, tiger sharks ventured into new waters and out of protected areas. 

In the past, waters on the northeast coast have not been warm enough for tiger sharks. As global warming increases the temperature of our oceans, tiger sharks and many other aquatic animals become at risk. 

Marine conservation efforts are in place to protect them, such as MPA’s or “Marine Protected Areas.” Marine Protected Areas are designated areas that prohibit fishing certain animal species.  However, they are only put in place where tiger sharks normally swim. The shark’s migration out of the protected areas puts these creatures at a greater risk to be finned or killed through commercial fishing. They also become at risk of being caught by fishing vessels. These are the boats that catch the majority of fish and other seafood sold in stores and restaurants across the country.  

Another problem that these migrating tiger sharks introduce is a change in ecological balance. Tiger sharks are known as “Apex Predators.” This means that when these creatures arrive in new areas and begin to hunt prey, it throws off the food chain in that specific area — just like in any invasive species scenario. 

Sharks and Humans 

As these sharks migrate up polewards and towards the coast, humans also come into play. The rise in ocean temperatures will result in more shark-to-human encounters. This could mean individual fishing boats, surfers, and even swimmers by the shore. However, the new migration patterns alone do not necessarily correlate with a rise in shark attacks. It is the human response of fear or panic that results in the attacks. This fear also results in a rise in individual shark fishing.

As spring break and summer approach, the Leesville community, as well as everyone else needs to be aware of what is going on. Teaching yourself as well as others how to act in the ocean and around marine life is extremely important. Not disrupting the ocean life is one of the most important factors — many people forget that the ocean is home to many creatures, not just a way for us to cool off. 

Another thing to remember if you do encounter a tiger shark, or any other sea animal for that matter, is to stay calm. Tiger sharks pose no immediate risk to us as long as we do not bother them. However, in an extreme scenario if a creature is approaching you, it is best to remain facing them and to slowly back away. Sharks typically attack when they are behind you, so keeping eye contact makes them much more likely to back away. Staying safe this swimming season means staying aware and alert in the water.



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