Nantucket Officials Get Summer Shark Research Update


NANTUCKET – An increased presence of sharks in the waters surrounding Cape Cod and the Islands in recent years has resulted in a variety of responses.

Highlighted by two attacks at Outer Cape beaches in 2018, one of which was fatal, elected officials in the area have increased efforts to mitigate the increasing number of sharks during the summer months.

On Nantucket, selectmen have been informed by OCEARCH, a national organization that studies sharks, that the increased presence of sharks around the island will be investigated.

“We’re in the midst of solving the life history puzzle of the Northwest Atlantic white shark. We began in 2012 trying to understand where and when they’re mating, where and when they give birth, where the nursery is, where they gestate and their full migratory range,” said OCEARCH founder and Chairman Chris Fischer.

The scientists want 60 white sharks for that project, so far we’ve tagged 43 in the Northwest Atlantic.”

Over the course of the summer, a team from OCEARCH will study why the sharks are arriving to the island using a research vessel, to be stationed of the Nantucket coast.

Fischer says the team will be collecting sperm and bacterial samples to investigate whether the sharks are mating in the area and to develop medicines related to bacterial infections from a shark bite.

“We’ll be anchoring the ship approximately five to five-and-a-half miles offshore, east of Great Point and working our way down around the southeast corner and then to the west. When we anchor the ship we actually have two smaller vessels that go out and actually capture the animals, Fischer explained.

“This coming August this will be OCEARCH’s 35th expedition around the world. We use this smaller vessel to get control of the sharks and then we bring them back to the ship.”

Fischer theorizes that a reason for the high volume of sharks in the area is that they are mating off the island’s coast and birthing in the waters off Long Island.  He says a pilot study into the theory would roughly take three years.

The two attacks on the Cape last year were separated by exactly one month. On August 15, a 61-year-old New York man was bit at Long Nook Beach in Truro and was rushed to a Boston hospital in serious condition. He has since recovered.

On September 15, 26-year-old Arthur Medici, of Revere, was fatally attacked while surfing at Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet. He was pronounced dead upon arrival to Cape Cod Hospital. It was the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936, when a shark killed a man in Mattapoisett.

By TIM DUNN, News Center 

About Tim Dunn

Tim Dunn is a native of south coast Massachusetts, growing up in the small town of Mattapoisett and now resides in New Bedford. He’s worked in the News Center covering everything you need to know about on the Cape.
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