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Greg Skomal

Greg Skomal

Senior biologist, Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF)

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It was a fantastic summer! Our tagging team was able to tag eight white sharks off the coast of Monomoy Island in Chatham. We tagged most of the sharks in August when the weather was calm and clear enough for our spotter pilot George Breen (who soars 1,000 feet above the tagging boat skippered by Bill Chaprales and his son Nick) to find the fish. Last year, we tagged five fish. If someone told me two years ago that we would satellite tag 13 white sharks, I would have called them crazy.

The sharks we tagged ranged in length from 10 to 18 feet long and from 600 to 3,000 pounds. It’s an exhilarating experience seeing these animals up close (we’re able to get within 10 feet of them when we tag). The whole tagging process is a pressure cooker as the excitement builds until Bill throws the harpoon and the shark is tagged. (The video clip below was taken from a tagging trip this summer.)

Although seeing these sharks and tagging them is the most exciting part of the job, the reason we do it is the data we’ll receive from these tags six to eight months later. This information will allow us to examine the broad-scale movements of these fish as well as their fine-scale behavior while off the coast of Massachusetts. These sophisticated tags will give us a first real glimpse of how these sharks live in the Atlantic Ocean.

I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world. I was drawn to the water at an early age and I’ve always had an admiration for sharks. Being able to study sharks for a living has allowed some of my childhood dreams to come true.

A lot of people don’t think about sharks when they think about New England but we have over dozen shark species here. It’s an active and dynamic area to work on these animals. The sharks we see off our coast are seasonal visitors, many of them travel great distances when they leave here. Basking sharks go to South America, blue sharks move across the Atlantic, and sandbar sharks go as far as Mexico. Our waters provide for really just a small part of their life history, but it’s an integral part of it. Some come to feed here, others to reproduce. We’ve been actively working on shark research for over 23 years. This work has been just one part of a comprehensive effort by the Division to understand our fisheries resources so we can implement wise and effective management.

Information about DMF’s shark research programs.

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