SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

September 19, 2012

Researchers tag great white sharks off Cape Cod

(Continued)

The Cape Cod expedition faces another challenge: finding the fish.

While great white sightings have risen near Cape Cod, they are much more common off South Africa or Australia.

Skomal estimates 30 great whites roam the Cape Cod coast on any given day. The Ocearch crew hopes to tag five.

Protecting these sharks is key, researchers say.

“These predators keep the next lower level in check,” said Bob Hueter, of Mote Marine Laboratory, one of the research organizations working with the Cape Cod expedition. “It’s a system of checks and balances.”

The great white is the “lion of the ocean,” keeping seal, squid and fish populations in check, Fischer said. But it’s also the shark that people are most interested in, making it a gateway for ocean conservation and advocacy, he said.

Catching a shark starts with chum, drawing sharks to the boat by placing whale blubber and other shark favorites in the water a mile out from the ship.

Fischer says the crew doesn’t draw sharks, as critics have claimed, but merely leads nearby sharks to the boat.

Most of Fischer’s crew spends each day on a boat barely bigger than the great whites, traveling among chum locations and looking for sharks.

Just after dusk on Sept. 13, they spotted a great white and hooked it. Then, the small boat’s crew slowly led the shark 4 miles to the 126-foot Ocearch.

Ocearch Capt. Brett McBride guided the shark onto the wooden platform with metal sides. Barefoot, he jumped in too. The lift slowly rose out of the water, level with Ocearch’s deck.

The shark thrashed and bared her teeth as the water receded, curving her head and tail into the air.

McBride threw a wet towel over her eyes and removed the two-foot hook from her mouth. He pumped water over her gills with two large hoses.

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