Despite the enormous scientific and public interest in white sharks, large gaps in our understanding of this species remain. Cape Cod has become an aggregation site for great white sharks, presenting a rare research opportunity.
In 2009, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) biologists, Dr. Greg Skomal and John Chisholm were the first to successfully tag and track great whites in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean using high tech tags.
Between 2009-2018, the DMF continued research on the movement ecology of white sharks along the coast of Massachusetts and beyond, and initiated a population study in 2014 to estimate the number of white sharks visiting Massachusetts. For the population study, DMF partnered with the School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Since 2013, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC) has provided funding and resources to support DMF’s research efforts.
In 2019, research scientist Megan Winton joined the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s team. Winton worked closely with Dr. Greg Skomal of the DMF on the white shark population study as part of her Ph.D. research at SMAST.
The next phase of white shark research, which will begin in the summer of 2019 and will be led by the DMF, will focus on white shark movement and behavior with a special emphasis on public safety. The research conducted over the next five years will consist of several different studies that all seek to improve upon and refine the answers provided by the research that's been conducted to date.
While efforts to study white shark habitat use and broad-scale movements will continue, a major objective is to document fine-scale movements to provide a more detailed picture of predatory behavior in the waters off Cape Cod. The results will be used to inform management plans for this species of conservation concern and will also provide valuable, science-based information that will be used to support ongoing efforts to mitigate the growing potential for shark-human conflict in the region.
Learn more about the DMF/AWSC collaboration >>
The DMF is collaborating with several institutions and researchers on white shark studies. Atlantic White Shark Conservancy is a fellow collaborator on the following studies:
The reproductive stage of white sharks in the western North Atlantic
J. Sulikowski – University of New England
Quantifying white shark predation rates on pinnipeds off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to mitigate conservation conflicts
AWSC is providing funding and/or in-kind support on the following studies:
The trophic ecology of white sharks in the western North Atlantic
S. Thorrold – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
A comparative analysis of DNA sequence variation in the white shark within and among ocean basins
G. Naylor – College of Charleston