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  • John J King II

Chatham Fall Offshore Journal – One for the Ages

Having spent nearly three weeks away from Cape Cod we were eager to get out and see how the various migration activities were progressing and just be out on the water. Our first day back was a monumental day in the annals of wild life conservation as it turns out. We captured a few images but mostly just followed the news as it was posted on various internet blogs. As those who have followed our travels recently will know we are passionate about Chatham's evolving role as the "ground zero" for understanding the Atlantic White Shark. We have spent many days out on the water in Chatham waters in search of this mystical apex predator.

We have been aware of the work of Chris Fischer and his Ocearch team on white sharks around the world especially most recently in South Africa. We followed the groups work as it was documented on the History Channel show - Shark Wranglers. The approach is very bold and quite invasive on the sharks they tag as they actually bring the fish out of the water on a hydraulic elevator specially designed for this purpose.  Their efforts are regarded as controversial by many in the shark conservation arena but researchers, including Greg Skomal are keen to see for themselves how this approach might help science learn more about these mysterious predators and thus supported an approach to allow Ocearch to work outside the three mile limit of State waters and away from our swimming beaches.

The weather can be difficult here as autumn approaches and Ocearch's process requires very calm seas to be successful. With that in mid after a number of delays their efforts to come into Cape Cod waters finally brought them to Chatham waters just in time for our return and we were able to see their operation. In the few days they have been able to work they were successful in tagging two very large female white sharks with SPOT tags. This event was monumental for shark researchers everywhere as for a period of five years these animals will be able to be followed via satellite information recorded from transmitters on these sharks no matter where they are in the world. Very fortunately the sharks appear to be functioning normally after the trauma of their capture and surgical implantations. One of the sharks, now known as Mary Lee, is pictured below - and it is a mega shark. Some researchers now believe this shark could be 50 - 60 years old and a critical breeding female to the propagation of the species! Incredible animal.

If you care to follow the Ocearch progress check here. All of the sharks they have tagged are posted for following.

3500 lb x 16 foot white shark - Photo credit Ocearch team

Our friend Dr. Greg Skomal and his team have been successful in finding and placing tags for research purposes on fifteen great whites in Chatham waters since 2009. We support his efforts and those of the team on the F/V Ezyduzit who have been the primary tactical team for placing tags on sharks and gathering data from the research buoys that are in place off of Chatham and the outer Cape Cod region. In 2012 Dr. Skomal's team has tagged 14 great white sharks nearly doubling the number of animals previously tagged. Thus on September 13, as Ocearch was working off shore outside the state territorial limits of three miles the crew of the Ezyduzit was also search for white sharks and tagged two on this day. One was estimated to be 16 - 18 feet long and was tagged inside Chatham Harbor off of Light house Beach. The other off of South Beach near Shark Cove.

Researchers use a pole camera to capture images of a shark near the surface

Spotter pilot George Breen - He has found nearly all of those white sharks tagged in Massachusetts waters from the air

On a fish and ready to tag

Massachusetts Department of Fisheries Researchers learned from down loading data from a receiver on this buoy that tagged white sharks had entered Chatham Harbor on August 30 and September 9 and they were successful in tagging a very large shark on September 13 as mentioned.

Seals pile up in Chatham Harbor as shark activity increases.

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