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Shark movement and habitat

The Massachusetts Shark Research Program focuses on the movement and habitats of sharks. They track several species in state and federal waters.

Basking sharks

Since 2004, 57 basking sharks have been tagged off the coast of Massachusetts with Pop-up Satellite Archival Tags (PSAT) or real-time satellite tags. Working with scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) researchers were the first to demonstrate that basking sharks cross the equator and move as far south as Brazil when they leave New England. 

White sharks

Seasonal white shark sightings off the Massachusetts coast have increased in recent years.The Outer Cape is a popular location for white sharks, as a growing population of gray seals live there. As a result, there is now predictable access to white sharks in the North Atlantic.

To study the movement of this species, our Shark Program has tagged more than 120 individual white sharks off the eastern coast of Cape Cod since 2009. These tags show that white sharks move more broadly throughout the North Atlantic than previously thought. When they leave Cape Cod in the late fall, they migrate to overwintering habitat off the southeastern US and the Gulf of Mexico. Larger white sharks (>9 ft.) move into the open Atlantic to as far as the Azores, while diving to depths as great as 3,000 ft. Many of the tagged white sharks return to Cape Cod each year. 

The sharks were tagged with the following technologies:

  • PSAT
  • Real-time satellite transmitters
  • Coded acoustic transmitters
  • Autonomous underwater vehicle transponders
  • Active acoustic transmitters
  • Accelerometers
  • NOAA Fisheries conventional tags

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy provides some of the funding for the white shark movement study. You can track some of the sharks on the free Sharktivity app.

Additional Resources

Other species

Since 1989, DMF's MA Shark Research Program has tagged and tracked the movements of several shark species using a variety of technologies. These include:

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