Researchers Ready for 2016 Shark Season

An underwater shot taken by researchers Friday. Courtesy of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

COURTESY OF THE ATLANTIC WHITE SHARK CONSERVANCY: An underwater shot taken by researchers in 2015. Courtesy of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

CHATHAM -Researchers with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy are getting out on the water this week to kick off the third year of their great white shark population study.

Last year, 141 great whites were identified in Cape waters which was an increase from 68 in 2014, the first year of the study. Of the sharks identified last year 101 were sharks that had not been previously spotted.

Researchers also tagged 24 great whites last year which was up from 18 the year before.

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s Executive Director Cynthia Wigren said the research conducted out on the water this year will be similar to what they have done the last two years.

“We really had a very efficient and effective team out on the water last year,” Wigren said of her research crew, which included state shark expert Greg Skomal.

Wigren said they also received help from John Chisolm, from the Division of Marine Fisheries, to identify the individual sharks and spotter pilot Wayne Davis.

“The process will be the same this year for the population study which is to go out on the water two days a week and get as much video footage as possible of every shark that we come upon,” she said. “It will be interesting to see what this year brings and clearly we’ll be updating the public throughout the season on what type of identifications are taking place and then how many sharks are tagged,” Wigren said.

Public awareness continues to be a major goal of the population study.

“Raising awareness is the key to all of this and our organization really want to provide the public with as much information as possible,” Wigren said.

Over the winter a regional shark working group which included officials from Cape communities, the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Division of Marine Fisheries met monthly and came up with the idea of a mobile app to help educate the public.

“That app will be giving people information on shark activity which is visual sightings, acoustic detections and then also alerts if we see sharks that are close to bathing beaches,” Wigren said.

Wigren said the goal of the app is to provide the public with as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions when they are going to the beach.

“It also helps public safety officials and beach managers with managing those beaches,” Wigren said.

The app is expected to launch on July 1.

Along with the app, Wigren said the conservancy will also use social media and its Chatham Shark Center to educate the public.

The conservancy took over responsibility of the newly renovated shark center this spring after the two organizations merged. The center opened for the season over Memorial Day weekend.

Wigren said the crew was grounded on Monday due to high winds and will look to take their first expedition of the season on Tuesday.

Researchers will be out on the water through the end of October.


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