Researchers tagged a great white shark this week off the coast of Cape Cod, the first of the season to be marked for tracking in the area and one of only a few sightings of the massive predator.
The shark, nicknamed “Avery” by officials with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, was identified as a female estimated at around 12 feet. It was tagged by the Massachusetts Shark Research Program off of Chatham.
Greg Skomal, a biologist with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said sightings have been “perhaps a little below average this year,” but there’s plenty of time for more to emerge.
Another white shark — this one a 14-footer — was seen in late June about a quarter-mile from Nauset Beach in Orleans.
The conservancy and the fisheries agency are working together on a three- to five-year study to find out how many white sharks live in the area, and whether they return from year to year.
Skomal said there tend to be more sightings in late July into August. This year, he said, it may turn out that fewer white sharks have been in places where people can see them because water temperatures in the region have been slow to rise.
“That’s the kind of thing we won’t know until we have a hard look at the data,” he said.
A report last month by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the ranks of white sharks are growing off the East Coast after a long period of decline, a phenomenon they attributed to better conservation and the easier availability of prey.
Skomal said a significant factor in the increased amount of observed shark activity off of Cape Cod is the resurgence of the seal population.