Consortium forms for white shark study

SMAST scientists are among 13 organizations and institutions that have assembled to form the New England White Shark Research Consortium, which will enhance coordinated regional efforts to study white sharks.

Great white shark
The establishment of the New England White Shark Research Consortium provides the first-ever collaboration of these entities to jointly study the white shark throughout its entire northeast US-Canadian range. (Photo courtesy of Pixaby.)

On December 2, shark research groups and government agencies from the northeastern US and Canada announced the establishment of the New England White Shark Research Consortium (NEWSRC). The consortium provides the first-ever collaboration of these entities to jointly study the white shark (Carchardon carcharias) throughout its entire northeast US-Canadian range.

With growing sightings of white sharks from Rhode Island to Canada, this is the perfect time to create a unique consortium to increase our understanding of white shark life history, including their migration, residency, habitat use, reproduction, and predatory behavior, factors that drive human-white shark interactions, and broader perceptions of white sharks by coastal communities.

The consortium plans to use hundreds of receivers to acoustically track great whites from Rhode Island to Canada in hopes of eventually creating “shark forecast maps” that will alert swimmers when shark activity along beaches is at its most intense, said Megan Winton, a PhD student at UMass Dartmouth's School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST) and chief research scientist for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. Winton is working closely with Dr. Steven Cadrin, Professor and Chair of Fisheries Oceanography, and Dr. Gavin Fay, Associate Professor of Fisheries Oceanography, both at SMAST.

In addition to the team of researchers from SMAST, the NEWSRC consists of scientists and researchers from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, the Center for Coastal Studies, the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the New England Aquarium, Arizona State University, the Atlantic Shark Institute, the NOAA Fisheries Apex Predators Program, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The coordinated and collaborative effort will use new and innovative technologies and research methods to study white sharks within the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Using the collective knowledge and resources of the group, the consortium will not only advance the current knowledge of the species but also enhance public education and safety within this region. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the white shark is on the IUCN’s Red List and the population is considered Vulnerable, which makes this research that much more important.

The Consortium will be unparalleled in scope and methodology, maintaining hundreds of acoustic receivers throughout the northeast to detect white shark movements from Rhode Island to Canada. It will conduct research on multiple life stages using a variety of tagging technologies, such as acoustic transmitters, data loggers, and satellite-linked tags, as well as conventional tagging and tissue analysis.

Departments SMAST Fisheries Oceanography, Features Student Research, News and Public Information, Office of Undergraduate Research, Research, School for Marine Science and Technology