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themselves: moving along the Atlantic Seaboard on a seasonal basis, born by news of the occasional sighting or accidental hook. (What scientists call “historical data.”) Now, East Coast shark experts are finally verifying this migratory pattern with the help of satellite tags — and most importantly — the return of another threatened species.

“By the ‘70s, the North Atlantic gray seal population had been decimated by hunting,” explains Dr. Gregory Skomal, a shark specialist with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. “Thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Cape Cod now has permanent seal colonies where it hadn’t for centuries. That’s drawing How Outer Banks fishermen can help white sharks closer to shore, so we finally have Atlantic white shark research. an opportunity to begin chipping away at what we It’s something every Outer Banks captain rarely know about this species in the Atlantic, which has been sees but instinctively knows. Come fall, great white completely void of any real ecological research.” sharks — the ocean’s most maligned and least understood apex predators — take a little “road trip” past Hatteras for In other words, resident seals bring hungry white sharks. Resident a winter vacation in more southern waters. Every spring, white sharks bring ravenous scientists. In fact, after decades of they cruise back to cooler spots off the Northeastern U.S. TV specials and researchers circling California’s “Red Triangle” For years, this info has traveled much like the creatures and South Africa’s “Shark Alley,” Skomal believes Cape Cod

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WE’RE GONNA NEED SOME BIGGER BOATS

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could be the East Coast’s first “hot spot” — a place where the elusive hunters return each year in consistent numbers. Between 2009 and 2010 his team deployed 10 “pop-up” tags, confirming that the Cape Cod population also travels every winter to a centralized area more than 20 miles off Florida and Georgia.

resident seals bring hungry white sharks. Resident white sharks bring ravenous scientists.

So what’s that have to do with Carolina boat captains? Well, that “centralized area” still represents thousands of square miles of open ocean. With no resident seal populations south of Massachusetts, to continue his research Skomal must examine those past historical records in hopes of determining the most likely place to gather a few fresh firsthand accounts. Or what he calls “data points.” “The biggest concentration of data points seems to be from roughly Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod,” he explains. “That’s where most of the people are fishing and boating — the most hooks in the water, the

WARNING: White sharks are protected by law. Fishing for them is strictly prohibited; and if you accidentally catch one you must release it. Any sightings can be reported to me, Dr. Skomal, at gregory. skomal@state.ma.us or 508-910-6305.

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