Thursday was the first official day of my internship!
I had the amazing opportunity to go out with Greg Skomal who heads the research team for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. We left early out of New Bedford and steamed all along the southern arm of the cape, eventually ending up on the eastern coast of Monomoy Island. From there we put out 9 receiver buoys, extending from Southern Monomoy all the way to Nauset. The buoys are equipped with acoustic receivers which receive transmissions from tagged white sharks. Hundreds of such buoys are placed all around coastal Massachusetts before late May when the sharks arrive and then collected in November once the sharks leave. This intricate detection system allows researchers to analyze the movements of individual sharks over the entire season. In addition to these 9 receiver buoys, we also put out 3 buoys equipped with real time communication back to the white shark conservancy. These were placed along public beaches, and contribute to the sharktivity app which helps beach goers stay wary of nearby sharks.
While out on the water it was great to be able to pick Greg’s mind, and learn all about white sharks off the coast of Massachusetts. I was shocked to learn that they have already tagged hundreds of sharks, and many more remain hidden. It turns out this large shark population is a result of the recent boom in grey seals. Even though they were protected many years ago, they have seen a drastic increase in population in the last 10 – 15 years. This in turn helped support a huge shark population that rose in response to an increase in their main food supply. While placing our buoys we knew we were in shark territory because we saw hundreds of seals laid out on the beach and swimming up to our boat. Since the sharks haven’t arrived yet, the seals are brave, coming out into deeper water. In the later season, they’ll stay close to shore whenever possible, constantly wary of the looming sharks.