Marine Experts Gather to Witness and Discuss New Research on White Sharks in Mysterious High Seas Ecosystem

May 10, 2018

May 15 discussion in Washington, DC, will feature a live broadcast with Research Vessel Falkor on the first scientific expedition to the Pacific Ocean’s “White Shark Café”

Contact: Jon Purves, Senior Media Relations Associate
202.736.2111 |

Washington, DC, May 10, 2018 – A distinguished panel of marine scientists and ocean experts will meet to discuss the plight of the world’s oceans and mark the close of the first-ever research voyage to a remote High Seas gathering place the size of Colorado where vulnerable great white sharks mysteriously congregate. The event is Tuesday, May 15, from 2:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. The event will feature a live broadcast from scientists aboard a vessel in the Pacific Ocean’s “White Shark Café,” an area of the central Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the Baja Peninsula to which scientists have tracked a large concentration of one of the ocean’s most charismatic apex predators.

Speakers featured at the event include:

  • Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science, Smithsonian Institution
  • David E. Shaw, Co-Chair, Aspen High Seas Initiative
  • Sylvia Earle, Co-Chair, Aspen High Seas Initiative
  • Fanny Douvere, Coordinator, Marine Programme, World Heritage Centre UNESCO, live from Paris
  • Francesco Ferretti, Research Associate, Stanford Hopkins Marine Station, live from Monterey
  • Barbara Block, Professor of Marine Sciences at Stanford University and the White Shark Café expedition’s chief scientist, live as the expedition exits the White Shark Cafe

After the panel discussion, Dr. Block will lead a live broadcast report from aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Research Vessel Falkor, located about 1,350 nautical miles east of Hawaii at the White Shark Café in the Pacific Ocean. The research vessel is at the conclusion of a four-week expedition to study the physical, chemical, and biological oceanography of this area and the marine life that congregates there.

Hosted by the Smithsonian Institution and the Aspen Institute, this event is led by the Aspen High Seas Initiative, a program of the Aspen Institute that is working to ignite global awareness of the need to explore, understand, and protect the last unregulated global commons: the High Seas. The Initiative will work to support the creation, expansion, and enforcement of marine reserves, use technology to explore and protect them, produce films and other media to educate the public on what’s at stake, and educate and engage youth to become future leaders working on behalf of our ocean. To learn more about the Aspen High Seas Initiative, visit

The Initiative will be led by new Executive Director Michael Conathan, who was previously Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress and is a former Republican staff member of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard.

“The High Seas cover 43 percent of the earth’s surface,” said Conathan. “Yet we know more about the surfaces of the moon and Mars than we do about these areas of our own planet. Over-exploitation of marine resources in international waters increases by the day and is exacerbated by the effects of climate change, including ocean warming and acidification. We have no time to waste—we must close this massive knowledge gap and take bold action to protect these fundamental ecosystems. I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead this new initiative to draw greater attention to the world’s ocean and its vital resources.”

 The Aspen High Seas Initiative is co-chaired by Dr. Sylvia Earle and David E. Shaw, and is advised by a Leadership Council that includes Secretary Madeleine Albright, President of Palau Tommy Remengesau, Dr. E.O. Wilson, Senator George Mitchell, General Stanley McChrystal, Dr. Barbara Block, former White House officials John Bridgeland and James Connaughton, Aspen Institute Executive Vice President Elliot Gerson, filmmakers Bob & Sarah Nixon, oceanographer Linda Glover, ocean advocate Linda N. Cabot, Dr. Richard Pyle, and Captain Buddy Vanderhoop. 

 “Never before has protection of the great ocean systems that underpin the existence of life on Earth been more urgent, and never again will the opportunity to achieve success be as realistic as it is right now. Now we know what could not be known before discoveries and insights in recent decades confirmed the connection between ocean health and human prosperity. Safe-guarding the High Seas, the blue global commons that occupy nearly half of the world, is an insurance policy for planetary security and for the current and future prosperity of humankind,” said Initiative Co-Chair Dr. Sylvia Earle.

To Attend the Event: Media seeking to attend the event must contact Senior Media Relations Associate Jon Purves at More information about the event can be found here:

The White Shark Café Expedition is co-sponsored by the Schmidt Ocean Institute, Stanford University, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the University of Delaware, Saildrone, Inc., and the Aspen High Seas Initiative.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

Schmidt Ocean Institute was created by Eric and Wendy Schmidt in 2009 to enable research that expands understanding of the world’s ocean using advanced technology, intelligent observation, and the open sharing of information. Annually the organization invites select scientific teams from around the world to carry out collaborative oceanographic research and technology development aboard its 272-foot research vessel, Falkor, launched in 2012. For more information please visit

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