Researchers have released video of the first great white shark to be spotted this year off the coast of Cape Cod, which they have added to their tracking database under the name of “Freckles.”
The shark, a 15-foot-long female, was spotted earlier this week by researchers working with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the group is hard at work on the second year of a planned five-year-long study set to examine the recurrent white shark population that visits Cape Cod every summer.
On Tuesday, the conservancy released new photos of the white shark, as well as underwater video captured using a GoPro. As Boston.com notes, the group also revealed that they had named the great white “Freckles,” a playful moniker meant to refer to distinctive white spots they noted on the shark’s face.
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) June 24, 2015
Over the course of the summer, researchers set out twice a week in the conservancy’s vessel in hopes of encountering and documenting great whites. As Cynthia Wigren, president of the conservancy, noted when speaking to the Boston Globe, the team aims to record the sharks in as much detail as possible, utilizing distinctive physical characteristics to identify individual great whites.
“The key to our research is to get as much of the shark as possible, and take footage of both sides of it,” she said. “We look at the gill slits, where the color changes from gray to white. Every shark has a unique pattern there — it’s sort of like their fingerprint.”
— George T. Probst (@GeorgeProbst) June 24, 2015
State marine fisheries biologist John Chisholm focuses on the white shark’s dorsal and caudal fins, as well as their gill slits, in order to positively identify each animal from the conservancy’s recordings. Last year, the group successfully documented 68 individual great whites in the region. According to Wigren, however, the density of the shark population makes identification of the great whites a challenging undertaking in and of itself.
“The more sharks we see, the harder that task becomes. It’s a very tedious process. For Chisholm, mentally, there are things that stick out in his mind. This shark had spots around her face, like freckles, so he named her that.”
— Emily Riemer (@EmilyWCVB) June 24, 2015
Though researchers spotted Freckles on Monday, their work is just beginning. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy will continue seeking out the great whites throughout the summer, in hopes of understanding how many of the sharks are repeat visitors to Cape Cod.
[Photo: Atlantic White Shark Conservancy via Twitter]