First Great White Shark Of The Season Tagged Off Cape Cod

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.

The Conservancy noted in a Facebook posting that the research team encountered the shark off the southern end of Nauset Beach. It was the second time that researchers had spotted a great white shark this week, after an 11-foot-long female shark was sighted near Monomoy on Monday, according to the Cape Cod Chronicle.

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.

Last season, Dr. Skomal and his team were able to capture footage of another unique predation attempt when a great white shark chased a seal from the water in a breach attack. The tactic, which involves the shark moving to strike from below, has been documented at length in other white shark hotspots like South Africa but had only rarely (if ever before) been observed in Cape Cod, as the Inquisitr reported at the time.

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.

According to angler Adam Kossler, who witnessed the incident, the white shark managed to reach the seal while it was just a few feet from the safety of the beach.

“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.”

Last summer was marked by several dramatic events involving white sharks along the cape, including three separate strandings. Two of those events proved fatal to the sharks involved, yet one young white shark was saved by beachgoers, making headlines worldwide. With summer dawning on the cape and this year’s great white shark population officially ensconced in the region, it remains to be seen what unique encounters with the species will unfold over the next few months.

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