A 14 foot female great white shark was spotted off Cape Cod this weekend by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, marking the first ocean-side sighting of a white shark this year.
AWSC spotted the first white shark of the season (on the ocean side) off the Cape today. ~14′ female named Ping. pic.twitter.com/ngdcXa0pAt
— Atlantic White Shark (@A_WhiteShark) June 29, 2014
Nicknamed “Ping” by the conservancy, the great white was sighted Saturday about a quarter-mile off Nauset Beach in Orleans, and followed by researchers for nearly an hour. According to Cynthia Wigren, president of the conservancy, the shark was moving slowly through the water, making it easy for researchers to track the animal by boat.
— Atlantic White Shark (@A_WhiteShark) June 30, 2014
Researchers were able to document the shark’s identifiable markings. “Sharks have a unique pattern along their lateral line, where the white of their body turns into a gray,” Wigren pointed out, according to The Boston Globe. The markings will be used to identify the shark if it returns to the area in coming years.
Volunteer researchers with the White Shark Conservancy will be looking for great whites off Cape Cod until mid-October, as part of a three to five year study in partnership with the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries. The intent of the study is to determine the population of great whites off the Massachusetts coast, and to identify how many of them return to the same waters each year.
A recent NOAA study, published in this month’s edition of the journal PLOS ONE, indicates that the great white shark population in the Atlantic is “surging” after years of decline, thanks largely to conservation efforts. According to NBC Bay Area, a 1997 federal act that prevented hunting of great whites, as well as a larger availability of prey animals, are factors in the species recovery from the population decline it endured in the 1970s and 1980s.
Great white sharks have also been spotted in other areas of the Eastern Seaboard this year, however. As The Inquisitr previously reported, a white shark attacked a fishing boat off of Cape May, New Jersey several weeks ago, ripping a chum bag off the side of the vessel.
Sharks tend to avoid humans, a fact that makes them difficult to study, according to Wigren. “Within the last five years,” she pointed out, “Cape Cod has become an aggregate site for them, so scientists finally have predictable access.” Researchers added “ping” to the study’s database, and will be deploying their spotter plane and boat twice weekly in the coming months in an effort to identify more of Cape Cod’s great white sharks.
[Images via Atlantic White Shark Conservancy/Facebook]