Researchers Tag Last Shark of 5-year Population Study

HYANNIS – Shark Researchers recently tagged the last shark of a five-year white shark population study off the coast of Cape Cod.

The last trip out on the water for the season was a few weeks ago and state Division of Marine Fisheries shark researcher Dr. Greg Skomal, working with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, tagged the 150th great white.

Despite the five-year study coming to a close, Skomal says researchers will continue to take research trips out on the water.

“There’s this perception that we are not going to be tagging anymore and that is not the case,” Skomal said. “We’ll be tagging for years to come as we try to learn more and more about the fine-scale behavior of these sharks.”

Researchers will spend the winter analyzing data. Skomal said the process is highly labor intensive.

“We’ll be looking at everything from regional and local abundance, to actual population size numbers,” Skomal said. “We have literally tens of thousands of data points to go over, which is a great position to be in. It’s just going to take a little bit of time.”

Skomal said he has been surprised by the number of sharks that have been spotted off the coast of Cape Cod over the last several years.

“It seems to be increasing,” Skomal said. “Of course we’ll be able to answer that question definitively with real numbers.”

Skomal did not expect dozens of sharks to be spotted by pilots on any given day during the months of August and September.

“It’s been pretty exciting getting a sense of where they are spending their time,” he said.

Moving forward researchers are going to take a hard look into the relationship between great whites and the local seals and get a sense of the where, when and how the sharks are killing and eating the prey.

“I think that’ll open doors for us in terms of understanding the behavior of these sharks in shallow water and we hope to be able to use that information to enhance public safety,” Skomal said.

Researchers, marine officials and community leaders have been continually discussing public safety since the two attacks late this summer.

In August, a New York man was attacked off Truro and is recovering.

A Revere man was fatally attacked in September off Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet.

“We need to have the conversations and we have to investigate all possible avenues to try and prevent these kinds of incidents from happening again,” Skomal said. “And it’s a difficult road to go down because there is no one solution that is going to solve this issue.”

Skomal said the conversations will continue with hopes of developing some strategies before next summer.

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