Most of the great white sharks that hang out around Cape Cod have started heading south to warmer waters after another “very productive” research season.
Shark scientists at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy have tagged dozens of top predators this year, bringing the researchers’ total to 279 sharks tagged in recent years.
During this shark season’s fieldwork, researchers at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy in the Marine Fisheries Division put together 39 acoustic tags and 10 special CAT tags that give scientists a snapshot of shark through video footage.
“We did a lot of things, a lot of labels came out,” said Megan Winton, researcher at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.
“It has been a great and very productive season and these research trips are part of the big long term research projects that we are doing,” Winton added.
Cape Town fieldwork is now complete for the year, but data analysis is a year-round project. After completing the season and putting the equipment back in place, researchers will work on digestion and processing of tagging data.
The beacons help researchers better monitor great white sharks and give them a better idea of their predatory behavior. The massive seal population attracted all of these sharks to Cape Town.
“This research is part of our long-term follow-up and allows us to better understand the predatory behavior of this species near shore,” Winton said.
“We use the tagging data to get a sense of what the population as a whole is doing,” she added. “You can identify trends and patterns of behavior, and spread to the entire population. “
The data scientists are getting from CAT beacons is “really amazing,” Winton said. The special tag records a video of what the shark sees and does.
These beacons stay on a shark for 24 to 48 hours before detaching, sending a satellite signal to researchers so that they can then retrieve it in the water.
“It’s like riding on the shark’s back,” Winton said. “The beacon archives data 20 times per second on shark depth and water temperature. It truly is transformative technology.
Meanwhile, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy has had a “really big summer” expanding its education and outreach efforts in the community, said Director of Education Marianne Long.
They were able to speed up programming and provide more educational opportunities after a 2020 drop at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. White shark shipments have taken off this year. During these trips, people can “observe white sharks in their natural habitat,” Long said.
“It’s really great to bring these learning experiences to families,” she added.
In addition, the Shark Smart program has had a very successful shark season, Long said. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s outreach team spoke to over 2,200 swimmers over the summer, answering questions about white shark activity.
The most common question from beach goers is, “Have sharks been seen on this beach today?” “
“We tell them that they can’t always see sharks and there may not be a sighting notification on the app,” Long said. “So we tell them to proceed with caution no matter what.”
Next year, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy will open a new Shark Center in Provincetown, in addition to the Chatham center. The Provincetown center will have different exhibits than Chatham, but it will all be directly related to their research efforts.
“The way we tell the story will be done differently,” Long said, also adding, “It’s great to be a part of the Provincetown community and the whole new network of people to educate and work with.”
They aim to open the Provincetown center for Memorial Day.