BOSTON (CBS) - While you may not be thinking about hitting the beach just yet, great white sharks may already be plotting their return to Cape Cod for the summer.
And when they arrive local researchers will be ready to track their every move.
For three years now, teams of scientists have been able to get close to the elusive great white.
“We’ve gotten some amazing data,” says Dr. Greg Skomal a shark expert with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.
Thanks to Dr. Skomal and his team we now know that many of the great white sharks we see off the Cape head south for the winter, most likely to enjoy the warmer water.
Thousands of sharks are now circling in the water just off Florida. And researchers there are studying the migration patterns of a wide variety of shark species.
On one 47-mile trip down the coast near Pompano Beach, a crew counted more than 100,000 sharks. And those were only the ones visible near the shore.
Tracking the fearsome creatures up and down the eastern seaboard involves heart-pounding and exhausting work.
Crews catch the sharks, haul them up onto the boat, quickly examine them, and then place a tiny transmitter just beneath the sharks’ skin before lowering them back into the ocean unharmed.
The work could provide information on any given shark for as long as 10 years.
As for the great white sharks: they could return to our waters as early as May thanks to our mild winter.
“Its entirely plausible if our spring is equally as warm, water temperatures will rise. And its possible sharks and many fish species will arrive sooner,” says Dr. Skomal.
And when they get here Dr. Skomal is eager to see if any of the 18 great whites sharks already tagged off the Cape return.
If the sharks swim near acoustic receivers in place along the coast, researchers will know they are back.
This summer there are new plans to keep tabs on the predators.
Along with satellite-based tags that will tell researchers where the sharks go in the winter, for the first time they hope to use some real-time tags to track the movements of the sharks every day.
Underwater vehicles may also be put to use this year.
And the more information we get, the better informed towns will be when deciding if beaches will be shut down to keep swimmers safe.