CHATHAM (CBS) – The scientists with OCEARCH thought the first shark they caught was big, until then they hooked number 2; a 16-foot, 3500-lb. female Great White.
Scientists working in Cape Cod waters hope their first-of-its-kind research will go a long way toward solving the puzzle of these huge fish that prowl the New England coast.
It’s strictly catch, tag and release.
That’s just what the crew aboard the research ship OCEARCH did for the second time of their expedition.
“It was a tremendous cat and mouse to get the shark to bite,” says Chris Fischer, one of the expedition’s leaders.
When the cry went up, “We’re hooked up,” the battle began to move the giant fish toward a platform that could be raised after the fish swam on top of it.
After about an hour, that’s just what happened and the monster they named Mary Lee after Fischer’s mother, was caught.
“It really felt like this is one of the most historic, kind of legendary, fish we’ve ever caught, coming out of the home of Jaws,” Fischer said.
Last week the same team caught and tagged a 2500-lb. female Great White.
Sophisticated tracking devices were attached to both, and before they were released, scientists were able to do something they normally can’t.
“Take tissue samples, look at parasites, take blood samples, muscle tissue, all those kinds of things we’ve always wanted to get from Great White sharks but have not been able to,” said Greg Skomal, the senior scientist for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.
With two females to track, they’re hoping to unlock the mysteries of these fish.
“When you get these mature females they can reveal both the breeding aggregation and the birthing sites, which is critical information to have the data to protect their future,” says Fischer.
Today the OCEARCH team wrapped up it’s work here, getting ready to take the ship to Florida for the winter, and lowering the explorer flag, ragged from hard travels.
“What we’ve been able to do in the last couple of weeks is indeed a first,” says Skomal.
As of Wednesday evening, both Great Whites were “pinging” off the Mass. coast. Mary Lee was off the coast of Wellfleet, while Genie was swimming south of Nantucket.
You can track the sharks yourself here.
OCEARCH relies entirely on funding from private donors, corporations and the public. If you would like to contribute, you can do so here.