First Great White Shark Of The Season Tagged Off Cape Cod

Dustin Wicksell

Researchers tagged the first great white shark of the 2016 season this week off the coast of Cape Cod, ringing the opening bell on the third year of a population study aimed at documenting the itinerant predators that move into the region each summer.

Dr. Gregory Skomal, of the Division of Marine Fisheries, tagged the great white shark off Nauset Beach according to WCVB Boston, working in concert with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. A 12-foot-long specimen, the white shark was named Luke by Dr. Skomal, after a friend of his who had just recently passed away.

— Atlantic White Shark (@A_WhiteShark) June 24, 2016

That encounter proved to be unusual, as Dr. Skomal's team observed the shark preying upon a grey seal. The abundant population of marine mammals that call the cape home is believed to be a driving factor in drawing the great white sharks each summer, yet predation events are witnessed infrequently. Last year, for example, the researchers only observed two such events over the course of the entire summer.

— Atlantic White Shark (@A_WhiteShark) June 24, 2016

The state and the Conservancy are working together in order to document the great white sharks as part of a population study that is now in the beginning of its third year. Intended to last for five years, this study aims to shed new light on the species, which has become a regular fixture along the Cape in recent years. Last year, researchers were able to document 141 individual white sharks in the region, 101 of which were first time visitors. That number represented a marked increase from the first year of the study, during which Dr. Skomal's team succeeded in recording just 68 individual white sharks. In that inaugural year, the researchers tagged 18 sharks, allowing them to track the predators' movements. Last year, another 24 white sharks were added to that roster, dramatically increasing the data available to researchers.

Earlier this week, another great white shark made its presence in the region known in dramatic fashion, as the Cape Cod Times notes. Several beachgoers were enjoying the shoreline near the main swimming area at Race Point Beach on Tuesday evening when they witnessed a mature adult white shark striking a seal from below, injuring and then devouring the unfortunate animal.

— Cape Cod Times (@capecodtimes) June 22, 2016

"It was trying to make its way to the beach and the shark intercepted it 10 feet off the beach and sat there chewing on it for 10 or 15 minutes."

[Photo by Hein Waschefort - Own Work via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped, Rotated and Resized | CC BY-SA 3.0]