Cape Cod Shark Researchers Getting Ready for Summer Season

HYANNIS – The summer season is almost here and researchers with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy will soon be out on the water for the final year of its five-year White Shark Population Study.

Research during the summer season in 2018 will be similar to work conducted along the coast over the last four years.

From mid-June through the end of October, researchers will be on the water twice per week to tag great white sharks and gather video.

“The focus of the population study will be getting as much video footage of the white sharks as possible to ID them,” Wigren said.

Currently, more than 300 individual great white sharks have been identified in local waters over the first 4 years of the study.

Conservancy researchers and state shark expert Dr. Greg Skomal tagged 30 sharks last year bringing the total to 115.

The conservancy has been working to get buoys, acoustic receivers and other equipment ready to be deployed along the coast of Cape Cod and the South Shore.

Data is recorded when tagged sharks come within 100 yards of the receivers.

“With that data you can get information about when the sharks are coming to the area, how long they are spending time here, what areas they are spending more time in and if it is happening off of public beaches,” Wigren said. “And all of that information is provided to beach managers.”

The data also provides important information about the movements of the sharks.

“Some of the sharks will come into the area and be here briefly and then we see other sharks that come in and spend quite a bit of time during the season here,” Wigren said.

Although this is the final year of the population study, Wigren said shark studies will continue off Cape Cod.

The buoys are likely to remain for years to come as white shark acoustic tags can ping for up to 10 years.

The conservancy is trying to secure funding or sponsorships to upgrade each buoy to have real-time receiver capabilities which transmit pings as they happen.

Wigren said researchers have been seeing the sharks move further north along the coast of the Outer Cape during each year of they study.

“Last year that movement was earlier in the season,” she said. “We were working as far north as Provincetown earlier in the season than we had previously.”

Residents and visitors to the Cape will be able to follow the activity of the apex predators for a third straight season by using the conservancy’s free Sharktivity app.

“Sharktivity has been a really great way to provide the public with information,” Wigren said.

App users can view shark sightings and receiver data from the tagged animals.

“It’s really given us the ability to engage the public and raise awareness,” she said. “People can also put their own sightings in which has created a citizen science piece as well. We’ve gotten some really good information that way.”

The app is available for apple and android devices.

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