CHATHAM (CBS) – An elaborate great white shark expedition is unfolding off the coast of Chatham. “This is the home of Jaws,” says Chris Fischer, whose 125-foot vessel called the OCEARCH is anchored three miles off the Chatham shoreline.
“It’s a 400 million-year-old secret, and when we get a spot tag on these fish, we’re going to solve that puzzle. Where do they feed? Where do they breed? When do they arrive? When do they depart? What are they doing?”
Fischer has been asking those questions across the globe for years, most recently in South Africa. He and his crew use a sometimes controversial method to tag sharks for research. They bait, guide, and temporarily lift the animals out of the water. This allows them to attach high-tech satellite transmitters that track sharks for five years. It also enables researchers to take blood samples, something Massachusetts state marine biologist Greg Skomal is eager to do. “We’re able to look at parasites and tissue samples,” says Skomal.
The expedition hasn’t been as easy as some may have expected. In an area where shark sightings have made countless headlines, including a shark attack on a swimmer, the OCEARCH has not been able to tag a shark yet near Cape Cod.
“Never-been-done-before things will happen on this ship, so that doesn’t come easy, no matter what you’re doing, otherwise someone would have done it before,” says Fischer.
The OCEARCH has a week left to lure in a New England great white. The ship’s captain urges patience. “If we just get one shark here, I’ll be very happy for it.”