Public Urged To Report Shark Sightings

Special to the Times-Free Press

After a 12-foot white shark was spotted off Cape Cod over the weekend, New England Aquarium scientists are urging the public to report shark sightings and be aware of their surroundings as the holiday weekend approaches.

The shark was seen feeding on a seal off of Provincetown, MA, on Saturday. This is the time of year that scientists expect to see white sharks returning to the inshore waters off of Massachusetts, where the animals hunt seals into the fall months.

“Though white shark bites on humans are rare, the sighting serves as a reminder to beachgoers and boaters to be mindful of the presence of these ocean animals,” said John Chisholm, adjunct scientist in the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life. “It’s important to be aware of sharks’ presence in shallow waters, to avoid areas where seals are present or schools of fish are visible, and to stay close to shore where rescuers can reach you if needed.”

As part of a partnership between the New England Aquarium and Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, Chisholm serves as the Citizen Science Coordinator for the Conservancy, documenting accounts of shark-seal interactions and verifying shark sighting reports made by the public through the Sharktivity app. Sharktivity provides information and push notifications on white shark sightings, detections, and movements to raise awareness and help people and sharks co-exist. The app sightings are input by researchers, safety officials, and others who upload photos and video, essentially crowdsourcing critical data on where sharks are spotted.

“There is a real public concern around beach safety, and we recognize the need to respond to that,” said Nick Whitney, senior scientist at the Aquarium and chair of the Anderson Cabot Center’s Fisheries Science and Emerging Technologies program. “That’s why we’re excited to continue this partnership with the Conservancy to help provide accurate, timely information on shark sightings in the region.”

The New England Aquarium has a team of nine scientists who study shark species, from porbeagles and nurse sharks to sandbar and sand tiger sharks. Many shark species reside in Massachusetts waters. Aquarium researchers’ work focuses on monitoring of these animals using innovative tagging technologies including satellite, acoustic, accelerometer, and camera tags to track the sharks’ habitat use, life history, and impacts of bycatch during commercial and recreational fishing activities.

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