Signs of white shark activity off Massachusetts after multiple marine mammals are seen with bite marks

Aquarium scientists urge public to be on alert ahead of holiday weekend

A deceased minke whale spotted with a white shark bite off Chatham, MA, on May 21. CREDIT: Capt. Damon Burden/Pythias Sportfishing

BOSTON, MASS. (May 23, 2024) – As the summer season gets underway, the New England Aquarium is urging the public to be aware of their surroundings and report shark sightings after multiple marine mammals were found with white shark bites recently off Massachusetts.

Just this week, the Aquarium received a report of a minke whale with a white shark bite off Chatham, MA, from a fishing charter company. John Chisholm, an adjunct scientist in the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, also captured images of a seal with fresh bite marks in Plymouth. This is the time of year that scientists expect to see white sharks returning to the inshore waters of New England, where the animals hunt seals and other prey through the summer and into the fall.

“Although we haven’t seen a white shark just yet this season, we know they’re here. With beach weather in the forecast and Memorial Day Weekend approaching, this is a good reminder for people to review shark safety guidelines and be shark smart,” Chisholm said.

Chisholm emphasized the importance of being aware of sharks’ presence in shallow waters, avoiding areas where seals are present or schools of fish are visible, and staying close to shore where emergency responders can reach you if needed.

A seal seen off Plymouth, MA, in late April with a fresh white shark bite.
A seal seen off Plymouth, MA, in late April with a fresh white shark bite. CREDIT: John Chisholm

The public can report sightings and stay informed on shark activity through the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s Sharktivity app. Sharktivity provides information and push notifications on white shark sightings, detections, and movements to raise awareness and help people and sharks co-exist. As part of a partnership between the New England Aquarium and the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, Chisholm serves as Citizen Science Coordinator for the Aquarium, verifying shark sighting reports made by the public and identifying legitimate sightings to be posted on Sharktivity.

“One of the Aquarium’s core values is to balance ocean use with preservation, and a big part of that is finding ways to minimize conflict between humans and wildlife,” said Nick Whitney, senior scientist and chair of the Anderson Cabot Center’s Fisheries Science and Emerging Technologies program. “This partnership with the Conservancy has been a great way for us to lend our expertise to their efforts to increase public awareness and safety around sharks, and we look forward to another year of assisting in those efforts.”

The New England Aquarium has a team of nine scientists in the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life who study sharks as part of their work, from porbeagle and nurse sharks to thresher, blue, mako, sandbar, and sand tiger sharks. Over 15 shark species reside in New England waters depending on the time of year. The researchers’ work focuses on monitoring these animals using innovative tagging technologies including satellite, acoustic, accelerometer, and camera tags to track the sharks’ habitat use, life history, and impacts of bycatch during commercial and recreational fishing activities.


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