Contact: Gregory Skomal, PhD and John Chisholm
Basking Shark

With external funding from private and federal grants, the Massachusetts Shark Research Program continued the collaboration with federal and academic researchers on the study of broad and fine-scale movements of sharks using pop-up satellite tags, real-time satellite tags, acoustic transmitters, and conventional tags. Species included in these studies are basking, blue, shortfin mako, sand tiger, common thresher, tiger, smooth hammerhead, and white sharks.

Basking sharks: Since 2004, 57 basking sharks have been tagged with Pop-up Satellite Archival Tags (PSAT) and 10 have been tagged with Smart Position Only Tags (SPOT). The broad and fine-scale horizontal and vertical movements of this species are being examined by Tobey Curtis (@Mojoshark) as part of his PhD at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School of Marine Science and Technology (SMAST). In 2014, Tobey completed a quantitative analysis of the fine-scale movements of SPOT-tagged basking sharks as they relate to oceanographic features derived from satellites. You can read the paper here.

White sharks: Relatively rare in the Atlantic Ocean, the number of seasonal white shark sightings off the coast of Massachusetts has been rising in recent years. An increase of white shark attacks on seals has also been recorded, particularly near Monomoy Island off the southeastern point of Cape Cod, which hosts a sizeable and growing population of gray seals. White sharks, which were thought to generally feed offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, are showing a dietary shift in response to the growing seal population. We now have predictable access to white sharks in the North Atlantic.

From 2009 through 2015, a total of 80 individual white sharks have been tagged off the eastern coast of Cape Cod, primarily in nearshore, shallow waters from Orleans to the southern tip of Monomoy. Five of these sharks were tagged in partnership with the non-profit organization, OCEARCH, in 2012 and 2013. These sharks—the first to be tagged with real time satellite transmitters in the Atlantic Ocean—can be followed live through OCEARCH’s interactive tracking website. The remaining sharks were tagged with PSAT, coded acoustic transmitters, autonomous underwater vehicle transponders, active acoustic transmitters, NOAA Fisheries conventional tags, or a combination. Since 2013, funding for the white shark movement study (vessel time, spotter pilot, etc.) has been provided by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.  The number of sharks tagged through this partnership includes 2 in 2013, 18 in 2014, and 24 in 2015.

Other species: In cooperation with OCEARCH and the Montauk Marine Basin, two blues, two tigers, seven shortfin makos, one common thresher, and one smooth hammerhead were tagged with real-time SPOT tags during the Shark’s Eye All-Release Shark Tournament held each summer since 2013in Montauk, New York. The movement of these sharks can be followed on the OCEARCH interactive tracking website.

White shark and seals
A white shark swims next to a group of seals off of Cape Cod.