By Dave Sigworth, publicist of The Maritime Aquarium
Heading out to Cape Cod this weekend? Some time soon?
We’re interested in one particular chartered vessel that headed off for the Cape on Monday, to spend August bobbing around off the ocean side. The crew’s mission: to tag as many as 20 great white sharks.
News stories are billing it as “the largest great white shark expedition in U.S. history.”
Coming just as the Discovery Channel kicks off its annual “Shark Week” this Sunday: coincidence. (Full disclosure: The Maritime Aquarium is a sponsor of “Shark Week” on Cablevision.)
The shark tagging expedition is being led by the renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) and Ocearch, a nonprofit organization that has been tagging and tracking sharks around the world aboard a specially devised research vessel for a couple years. (We’ve blogged about Ocearch’s efforts – and their cool website, where you can follow sharks’ movements – in the past. It’s http://sharks-ocearch.verite.com.)
One of the main researchers onboard is Greg Skomal, a Fairfield, CT, native who is senior fisheries biologist with Massachusetts Marine Fisheries. He’s been involved with the tagging of several great whites off the Cape in the last few summers. (He also gave a fascinating talk at The Maritime Aquarium back in February 2011.)
WHOI. Ocearch. Skomal. Folks from Mote Marine Laboratory and other institutions and universities. All teamed up. This is serious. (Although, boy, we’d love to hear some of the stories told around the galley table at night.)
The purpose of the mission is to learn more about great whites, which are being drawn to the Cape in increasing numbers by the new abundance of one of the sharks’ favorite meals: gray seals.
Upon bringing a great white onto the Ocearch vessel, the researchers will collect blood and tissue samples, for insights into the sharks’ health, and they’ll attach a GPS device that will provide information on where the sharks go and how deep they dive. (You’ll be able to follow along too on the Ocearch website.)
If you’ll be out on the Cape between now and Aug. 29, the expedition headquarters will be in the Chatham Bars Inn, which will host events and support daily expedition logistics.
According to a press release: “Local community events will be held throughout the month of August on 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. To stay updated on the daily activities, visit www.ocearch.org where you can see the daily Expedition Blog, experience the Global Shark Tracker and see all social media links.”
It should be a very interesting month out there.