The first white shark of the 2015 season made itself known Monday. According to a release from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, researchers caught up with the 15-footer off South Beach in Orleans.
The conservancy will once again be working with Dr. Greg Skomal, head of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries' Shark Research Program. In addition to the very important work of tagging white sharks for research, Dr. Skomal embarked on a shark population study last year.
Since its founding in 2012, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy has been the biggest supporter of the state's shark program, funding tags, vessels and spotter planes. Dr. Skomal is working to collect underwater GoPro footage of white sharks in the area as part of the population study. Last year, 68 sharks were identified as part of the study. Skomal, fellow researchers and volunteers identified the sharks by fin shape, color pattern and scars and this year will be eager to see which of the 68 sharks return and how many new sharks can be added to the study. Massachusetts and specifically areas around Cape Cod are home to a "predictable population" of white sharks during the summer, giving the research focus.
Researchers aren't the only ones waiting with baited breath for the arrival of the white sharks. This winter, Mary Lee, a 16-foot female white shark who was tagged by Ocearch in 2012 off Cape Cod, established a growing following on Twitter. More than 80,000 fans follow Mary Lee as she winds her way up the coast towards her summer home. While this nameless 15-footer scopes out the Cape's waters, Mary Lee is still much farther south. She's been pinged off Delaware and around the Carolinas and just Monday was pinged off Florida.
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy raises funds to support the state's shark program through donations, sponsorships, fundraisers and the sale of logo clothing and other items.