Oceanic whitetip shark mission

OceanX, along with Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI), Florida International University (FIU), New England Aquarium, University of North Florida, Microwave Telemetry and the Haiti Ocean Project traveled to Haitian waters to find and tag the critically threatened Oceanic Whitetip shark, and to locate juvenile Oceanic Whitetip hotspots in Haitian waters.  The expedition took place aboard the M/V Alucia, a state-of-the-art ocean research vessel from June 30 – July 17, 2019, covering the Bahamas and Haiti.  Oceanic whitetips are critically endangered, and one of the last places to find them in the world in any appreciable numbers is in the Bahamas Shark Sanctuary.

Approximately 9 years ago, shark scientists placed satellite tags on a number of adult oceanic whitetip sharks off CAT island in the Bahamas, many of them pregnant females.  The search has been on to find the area where these sharks were giving birth and where the young were residing.  Two years ago,  having discovered our juvenile oceanic population, these scientists were convinced they found the place they were looking for, in the Nippes Region of Haiti, and they were correct!  This is why OceanX took an interest and brought their research vessel to Haiti.


Objectives of the expedition:

1. Verify that the Windward Passage is a pupping area for oceanic whitetip;

2. Track movements and depth ranges of juveniles, the least known and currently most vulnerable life-stage to fishing;

3. Investigate connectivity between Bahamas and Haiti populations through satellite tagging and parentage analysis;

4. Trial open ocean eDNA sampling as a tool to detect oceanic whitetip sharks;

5. Trial fecal swabbing as a method for determining diet in wild-caught sharks;

6. Investigate how capture-and-handling impacts juvenile oceanic whitetips through video footage, accelerometry, blood chemistry, and post-release behavior.


Data and Samples from this mission include:
  1. Two (2) Oceanic Whitetips in Haiti – a female adult and a juvenile – the first tagged juvenile oceanic whitetip shark in Haiti’s history! Also, one (1) silky shark tagged in Haiti. Fin clips from each shark for DNA analysis and blood plasma samples taken. Ultrasound imagery taken on female adult oceanic.

1. Satellite tagged the first juvenile oceanic whitetip off the coast of Haiti.

2. Built relationships with local Haitian fishermen that are now “citizen-scientists” collecting data on our behalf.

3. Water samples filtered throughout Haiti to identify eDNA of oceanic whitetips and other species.

4. Additional data gathered (genetics, stable isotopes, and blood chemistry) from two (2) oceanic whitetip sharks and one (1) silky shark.

Results from this expedition will certainly have conservation implications aimed at promoting the recovery of this incredibly important apex predator, the oceanic whit tip shark. Forthcoming data from the tracking devices and the laboratory analyses based on field collection will uncover new knowledge about oceanic whitetip sharks and connect to a wider effort in the tropical Atlantic to protect this species throughout its lifecycle. This ground-breaking mission has successfully catalyzed future international collaborations on shark research between Haiti, the Bahamas and the U.S.



A special thanks to Olivier Barrau, CEO of Alternative Insurance Company whose generosity has allowed us to build this website and, without which, we could not have had an ideal showcase, both in Haiti and around the world.