Shocker: Great White Sharks in Cape Cod Bay

Doug Fraser — Captain Hap Farrell has been charter fishing out of Rock Harbor for close to 40 years. He has seen plenty of bluefish and striped bass, but in the past three summers he, and others in the charter boat fleet, have started to see the rise of a new species: juvenile great white sharks.

Although state researchers have concentrated their efforts along the Cape's Atlantic side for nine years, the volume of reports, including videos, of great white sharks in Cape Cod Bay convinced scientists that it was time to expand their work into that water body. This summer, the spotter plane cutting lazy circles overhead could become a familiar sight to bayside beachgoers.

"We are committed to going into the bay," said Gregory Skomal, a shark researcher with the state Division of Marine Fisheries. For a minimum of 10 trips this summer Skomal will be in the pulpit of a tagging vessel in Cape Cod Bay, directed to sharks by the spotter plane. Using a video camera mounted on a long pole, researchers first try to collect identifying marks, coloration, scars and missing body parts to catalog and compare against their database.

If he finds a new shark, Skomal will use a harpoon to attach a tag that transmits a unique identifying signal. He is particularly interested in juvenile white sharks, under 10 feet long, which are mainly fish eaters. Last summer reports came into the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's Sharktivity app of white shark sightings in the bay from Manomet Point in Plymouth to Long Point in Provincetown. Data from tagged sharks also showed their signals recorded on buoys all along the Cape Cod Bay shoreline.

"We have heard all the stories of small (great white sharks) eating striped bass off the (fishing) lines," Skomal said. There are some theories on why that is happening, but little hard data to support anything conclusive.

Chris Lowe, a shark scientist at California State University Long Beach, said he would not be surprised if research showed Cape Cod Bay was an important destination for juveniles, something like a nursery.

"Juveniles go wherever the food is and where they find the most suitable conditions," Lowe said. "It could be one spot one year, and another another year." Read More.

This just in: water’s wet. Where there are prey, there are predators. Science and history have proven it.