Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Summer White Shark Research Report
Our summer adventures here on Cape Cod have once again been breath taking and the time has passed quickly. As in the previous 3 years we are primarily engaged in a white shark population study which is being conducted by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries with the support of Atlantic White Shark Conservancy based here in Chatham. Since mid- June we have made over twenty research trips into the field on our vessel the Aleutian Dream with a team of researchers. We work on the outer Cape coastline across an area that is about 40 miles long. With the aid of a spotter plane our field research days are spent tracking white sharks spotted by the plane, maneuvering to them and then photographing them with long GoPro pole cameras as the sharks are free swimming often within 100 meters of the shore. The goal is to create a database of individuals in a catalogue and working with statisticians they hope to estimate accurately a baseline of the population of white sharks that visit Cape waters during the summer and fall seasons to hunt local fish stocks and especially the resident grey seal population. We will be doing this work through the month of October this year.
There has been no shortage of action to witness. Probably the most spectacular event occurred just a few days ago when a Minke whale became entangled in fishing gear and drowned in the vicinity of Provincetown at the northern tip of Cape Cod. We are aware that these tragedy’s do occur in our area and have been alert to these reports of a carcass floating offshore since whale carcasses are a major food source for particularly larger white sharks. When such events happen they sometimes attract larger more mature sharks that have not been seen in our study area offering a unique opportunity to catalogue these individuals. When we received the report we mobilized quickly to make the ninety minute run up the coast line in hopes of witnessing the spectacle first hand. Below are some of what we witnessed both above and below the water and it was spectacular in every way. Also dropped in a few images from previous day’s activities. Don’t miss the links to videos at the bottom of this post.
Here is a short video summary of a research paper:
White sharks scavenging on whales
Published my our scientist friends Neil Hammerschlag, Austin Gallagher and Chris Fallows of Apex Shark Expeditions which describes the phenomenon of white sharks feeding on whale carcasses and what might be learned from observations conducted in South Africa. Our own observations were similar as we reviewed the days video.
In addition here is a link to video we captured while standing by the carcass on August 11. Truly special to witness this seldom seen spectacle of natural history, especially in Cape Cod waters.