The White Shark cafe is an extremely unique place. Sounds like a cool hang-out place doesn’t it? Well, it is. Quite literally.
This isolated, sub-tropical region in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii is quite literally a cool water, hang out spot for one of the most impressive predators of the open ocean; White Sharks.
Years of studies done by a team of researchers from Stanford University found that every year, just before the the end of winter in the North Pacific region, the white sharks from around the entire Pacific region swim many kilometers to eventually reach this 250 km wide region of the Pacific Ocean. The studies were conducted using satellite-traceable tags and acoustic tags on the sharks as well as the regions frequented by the sharks. The sharks then spend a few months here, and return to their habitats just before the elephant seal breeding season begins in the fall.
Is this region particularly unique?
The first conclusion arrived at for this behavior was that there must be some sort of resource that the sharks only find in this region. But studies here have shown that the region is basically an “ocean desert” with very little food. White sharks have extremely large food requirements, so it is unlikely that they would travel hundreds of kilometers leaving their homes with plenty of food to come here and starve.
The region, however, is actually the edge of the North Pacific Gyre; a unique oceanographic area that is considered to be one of the largest ecosystems of the world. The surface waters along this edge seem to be a desert, but we don’t know much about the deep waters here.
What do the white sharks do at their cafe?
It has been observed that the sharks that travel to the cafe regularly dive into deep waters on the way to the cafe. This period diving becomes even more frequent when they reach the cafe, sometimes making up to 150 dives every day. The dives typically range between 150 and 450 meters in depth, and could be a dive to find food or to show off their skills.
Yes, show off their skills. Another theory for this consistent migration pattern of the sharks is that they come here for mating and breeding purposes. Many researches are trying to explore this angle to this habit, by studying the number of males and females coming to the cafe every season.
However, some tags have shown that even young offsprings travel to this region, suggesting there may be another reason for this migration pattern. The reason for the unusual diving habits is also unknown.
Should this area be protected?
Research is underway by a large group of marine biologists, oceanographers and shark experts to try and understand this unique behavior. The white sharks are a vulnerable species in the Red Data Book, and it is important to find out why they travel to this region. Conserving this region may prove to be vital in protecting this species from extinction.
In fact, calls are being made for this White Shark Cafe to be termed as a world heritage site and be included in the list of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This would not only protect about 80% of the white shark population but also protect any of the associated species in the deep waters of that region we know nothing about. It is, after all, a part of one of the largest ecosystems on Earth.
Conservation of this region is even more important when you realize that the North Pacific Gyre is also the region with the largest ocean garbage patch in the world.
This region and the mystery surrounding it is further proof that we have a lot more to learn about the world we live in.
All images from Google Images.