‘The Largest Great White Shark Expedition in U.S. History’ Is Happening Off the Cape

OCEARCH will be heading out to sea to try and tag the sharks that have been lurking along the Cape Cod shores.

Photo via Mass. State Police

Photo via Mass. State Police

A non-profit shark research group is gearing up to hit the high seas in an effort to conduct what they call one of the biggest Great White expeditions in modern day history.

On July 30, members of OCEARCH, a Cape Cod-based organization that focuses on the study of predators like Great Whites, will board the M/V OCEARCH, a 126-foot Cat-powered water vessel equipped with a custom 75,000 lb. hydraulic lift and at-sea laboratory, to try and track down the animals that have been swimming off the coast of Chatham this summer.

Being led by OCEARCH chairman and founder Chris Fischer, the expedition is scheduled to run through August 29, with the goal of capturing anywhere from 10 to 20 Great White sharks during the ocean adventure, and tagging them to further the group’s research initiatives. The group will keep a live blog of all the activity, including photos, and videos, of the expedition. People can also follow along daily on Facebook.

Each shark that they capture will spend roughly 15 minutes with top scientists, who before release will conduct simple studies while on the research boat’s platform. “The increased summertime population of Great White Sharks off Cape Cod has drawn significant science and public safety attention, specifically a quest for increased knowledge,” according to a statement from the group. “OCEARCH facilitates research and shares data on the breeding, feeding, migration, and birthing patterns of sharks.”

Data compiled and collected by researchers will be uploaded to their personal database, the Global Shark Tracker, so that people can learn more about the predator’s habits in the ocean. The Global Shark Tracker is a web-based, real-time satellite-tracking tool for sharks that will eventually be expanded to other species, according to a statement from OCEARCH.

This will be OCEARCH’s 17th expedition, but this year’s studies will vary slightly from past trips out to sea because the research team will be working in an area known for high populations of seals. Researchers will also be flanked by a large group of experts, including the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries Senior Scientist, Greg Skomal.

According to Skomal:

This expedition brings together an amazing team of researchers with broad experience in multiple disciplines. In doing so, we will be conducting over a dozen studies on white sharks, ranging from broad and fine scale migratory patterns to sonograms.  Our knowledge base on Atlantic white sharks will grow exponentially, helping both science and public safety.

Local community events will be held throughout the month of August in Cape Cod, under the coordination of local organizations such as the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, the Chatham Shark Center, the Audubon Society, Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance and the Sea Lab Marine Science Education Center.

A 15-foot shark was first seen prowling for seals just off the shoreline in Chatham around July 14, when a helicopter being operated by an independent group of shark hunters snapped a photo from the sky. George Breen, member of the Sandwich-based Cape Cod Shark Hunters, which is separate from OCEARCH, followed the shark’s movements for more than one mile along the beach as it stalked its prey.

Days later, there were at least six more sightings in the area, off Monomoy. The sightings have led researchers to believes that Cape Cod may serve as a breeding ground for some Great White sharks.

Below is a video of OCEARCH tagging a shark in Jacksonville on a recent outing: