Are there great white sharks in the Gulf of Maine?

So, one of the questions we get pretty frequently at the lab each summer is whether or not great white sharks actually swim anywhere near to the Isles of Shoals. Well, an article from this past July sheds light on this subject.

According to the Boothbay Register, of Maine, several fisherman observed a great white shark feeding on the carcass of a minke whale at several points last summer. Ryan Casey reports seeing the shark while lobstering off Damariscove Island and says:

It was about 15 feet long and you could see its head coming out of the water as it was feeding.

A shark expert later confirmed it was a great white. Casey’s video tells the story.

Another area boatsman, Capt. Mark Stover of Redhook Charters, explains the phenomenon in relation to warming oceans as predicted due to anthropogenic climate change. He says:

The water’s getting warmer. We’re going to start seeing more unusual species here.

The feeding behavior described above was not unusual for great white sharks which often feed on dead whale carcasses which have abundant blubber and provide energy rich food with no work. However, being so far inshore is quite unusual as they are usually found much further offshore than even where the Isles of Shoals are located.

One cause is that the Marine Mammal Protection Act has helped seal populations to rebound throughout the Northeast. These rising populations have helped bring great white sharks in closer to coastal Massachusetts where researchers have noted they congregate to feed on seals and sea lions.

Not to worry, though, as they have not been seen swimming in our harbor and only extremely unusual circumstances would cause them to do so. To better understand their behavior and population size,  this past summer researchers from theWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution set sail to tag 20 great whites. Find out more information about sharks here.

If you’re interested, you can read the original article from the Register here:

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